2016 March: Landfill Contamination (Australia)

Journal of Hazardous Materials

Volume 312, 15 July 2016, Pages 55-64

Occurrence and distribution of brominated flame retardants and perfluoroalkyl substances in Australian landfill leachate and biosolids



•PFASs were ubiquitously detected in leachate from operating and closed landfills.
•BDE-209 was the predominant PBT detected in biosolids (maximum 2300 ng/g).
•Brominated flame retardants were more frequently detected in operating landfills.
Landfill leachate transferred to WWTPs was a minor source of PBTs in biosolids.
•Estimated annual per capita contribution of BDE-209 accumulated in biosolids was 7.2 mg.


The levels of perfluroalkyl substances (PFASs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and hexabromocyclododecane (HBCDDs) were studied in Australian landfill leachate and biosolids. Leachate was collected from 13 landfill sites and biosolids were collected from 16 wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), across Australia. Perfluorohexanoate (PFHxA) (12–5700 ng/L) was the most abundant investigated persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) chemical in leachate. With one exception, mean concentrations of PFASs were higher in leachate of operating landfills compared to closed landfills. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and hexabromocyclododecane isomers (HBCDDs) were detected typically at operating landfills in comparatively lower concentrations than the PFASs. Decabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-209) (<0.4–2300 ng/g) and perfluoroctanesulfonate (PFOS) (<LOD—380 ng/g) were the predominant PBTs detected in biosolids. Using data provided by sites, the volume of leachate discharged to WWTPs for treatment was small (<1% total inflow), and masses of PBTs transferred reached a maximum of 16 g/yr (PFHxA). A national estimate of masses of PBTs accumulated in Australian biosolids reached 167 kg/yr (BDE-209), a per capita contribution of 7.2 ± 7.2 mg/yr. Nationally, approximately 59% of biosolids are repurposed and applied to agricultural land. To our knowledge this study presents the first published data of PFASs and HBCDDs in Australian leachate and biosolids.