Predicting biogeochemical calcium precipitation in landfill leachate collection systems

Jamie F. VanGulck, R. Kerry Rowe, Bruce E. Rittmann, Andrew J. Cooke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Clogging of leachate collection systems within municipal solid waste landfills can result in greater potential for contaminants to breach the landfill barrier system. The primary cause of clogging is calcium carbonate (CaCO3(s)) precipitation from leachate and its accumulation within the pore space of the drainage medium. CaCO3(s) precipitation is caused by the anaerobic fermentation of volatile fatty acids (VFAs), which adds carbonate to and raises the pH of the leachate. An important relationship in modeling clogging in leachate collections systems is a yield coefficient that relates microbial fermentation of VFAs to precipitation of calcium carbonate. This paper develops a new, mechanistically based yield coefficient, called the carbonic acid yield coefficient (YH), which relates the carbonic acid (H2CO3) produced from microbial fermentation of acetate, propionate, and butyrate to calcium precipitation. The empirical values of YH were computed from the changes in acetate, propionate, butyrate, and calcium concentrations in leachate as it permeated through gravel-size material. The theoretical and empirical results show that the primary driver of CaCO3(s) precipitation is acetate fermentation. Additionally, other non-calcium cations (e.g., iron and magnesium) precipitated with carbonate (CO32-) when present in the leachate. A common yield between total cations bound to CO32- and H2CO3 produced, called the calcium carbonate yield coefficient (Yc), can reconcile the empirical yield coefficient for synthetic and actual leachates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)331-346
Number of pages16
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Calcium carbonate
  • Clogging
  • Landfill
  • Leachate collection
  • Microbial fermentation
  • Porous media
  • Yield coefficient

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Bioengineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Microbiology
  • Environmental Chemistry


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