EarthWord – Leachate

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No, it’s not a sports drink for leeches, although that’s what it sounds like. Leachate is the solution (or suspension) that forms when liquid travels through a solid and removes some components of that solid with it. Those components may be dissolved or suspended within the liquid.

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A USGS scientist collects samples while studying the Norman Landfill as part of our leachate research.
A USGS scientist collects samples while studying the Norman Landfill as part of our leachate research.

Definition:

  • No, it’s not a sports drink for leeches, although that’s what it sounds like. Leachate is the solution (or suspension) that forms when liquid travels through a solid and removes some components of that solid with it. Those components may be dissolved or suspended within the liquid.

Etymology:

  • Leachate comes to us from Old English, and is related to the word “Leak.”

Use/Significance in the Earth Science Community:

  • Leachate is commonly associated with landfills, as it is one of the concerns landfill managers have to deal with. Precipitation such as rain can result in water percolating through the landfill waste and becoming contaminated with chemicals from the waste. It’s important to account for that liquid and prevent it from escaping into the surrounding environment.

USGS Use:

  • USGS studies leachate as part of its contaminants of emerging concern research, in which we research chemicals whose environmental impacts are less widely studied, such as new pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and personal care products.
  • Past USGS work examined the Norman Landfill site and pharmaceutical chemicals in leachate from landfills across the country.

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