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Treating Para-Cresol In Landfill Leachate


Para-Cresol, or p-cresol, is a toxic organic pollutant found in landfill leachate that has been a historic problem. If left untreated, p-cresol can seep into our rivers and lakes which harms the environment and can pollute our drinking water. Para-cresol can be harmful if inhaled, swallowed, or absorbed through the skin and can even be fatal. The goal is to reduce the amount of leachate that winds up in the environment.


Para-cresol is in landfill leachate, or percolated water. Water can leach into the waste down to the collection system when the landfill packs and covers the garbage. This water will go through a mechanical screening process to remove the solids and the liquid has concentrations of para-cresol.

P-cresol can irritate the skin, eyes, and respiratory system of humans and animals and can affect the heart, liver, kidneys, and nerve cells. It also poses a significant environmental risk and there is no consensus or regulation for treating it.

The EPA has regulations on the level of p-cresol and landfill owners want to keep the concentrations low so that they can remain compliant. Also, publicly owned treatment works want less concentrations of p-cresol in the water they take in. This is because the water polluted with p-cresol makes its way into the city’s sanitary sewage collection system which is the same sewer system that provides the water we use to wash our dishes and clothes. If it ends up at a POTW , they have no way to address it and it will come out polluted on the other end. Therefore, landfill owners often have a hard time finding a POTW that will take water with a high concentration of p-cresol.

Also, regulatory authorities monitor the discharge from POTWs and want to know that a significant amount of pollutants are not making their way into water sources like rivers and lakes. Some of the water that goes to a POTW can end up in bodies of water that supply the water we drink, so it should not contain toxins. They also like to keep an eye on places with higher than normal levels of p-cresol.

Another cause for concern is the increased likelihood of a landfill blowout. If a landfill operator is unable to get rid of enough water because it is too polluted, they can take on too much. In turn, this water can break through the landfill which is a blowout.


Companies often get the concentration of p-cresol below the regulated limit by diluting it. An amount of water will have an unacceptable concentration of p-cresol. These companies add unpolluted to the polluted water until it gets to a passable level of concentration. However, this can cause a host of other problems and is not a solution.

First, if every company dilutes the polluted water, the same amount of p-cresol will still be making its way to the waterways. The concentration is lower, but the same amount of p-cresol will make it into the waterways. These waterways supply the water that people use and drink everyday. The solution would be to reduce the total amount of p-cresol instead of diluting the concentration before it finds its way into the water supply. 


Wastewater Transport Services focuses on treating the water instead of diluting it. Unlike dilution, treating polluted water with an oxidizer which reduces the amount of p-cresol. The oxidizer destroys the p-cresol molecule. In turn, there is a reduction in the amount of p-cresol in the waterways.

Treatment is the only way to keep the p-cresol from impacting the environment. Government and industry officials monitor the water that finds its way into streams, rivers, and lakes. Treatment can reduce penalties and fines. A treatment facility or landfill only has the right to continue business if they are below the regulation limits. Treatment will ensure that they are.