For years, it didn’t much matter what was in your leachate. You could ship it to a publicly owned treatment works (POTW) and call it managed, regardless of the contaminants it contained.

Nowadays, that’s not a feasible way of doing business. POTWs are beholden to standards on certain contaminants and are expecting further regulations on others. Because of this, they’ve driven up treatment costs for leachate with high contaminant loads — if they accept it at all.

Ultimately, cost-effective and risk-averse leachate management requires more nuanced methods than ever before. As a starting point, it requires understanding of the contaminants making leachate more difficult to manage.

Let’s look at 8 types of contaminants that landfills care most about, as well as real-life data showing how Atmos’ alternative to traditional leachate treatment methods can remove them from your leachate.

A high-level look at the data

Below, you’ll see two tables. They display performance data of the Atmos Leachate Treatment System (ALTS) at two different landfills. Pay attention first to the contaminants measured. You’ll see that the two landfills had some different concerns.

Then you’ll see that the contaminant loads at the different landfills are significantly different. One is a highly contaminated site in the desert. The other a Gulf Coast landfill whose biggest challenge was humidity preventing evaporation.

Their ponds were filling up and their POTWs were becoming less and less viable treatment partners.

ContaminantRaw leachateALTS treated leachateContaminant
reduction (%)
TOC30,800 mg/L48 mg/L99.8
TDS80,800 mg/L204 mg/L99.75
Oil/grease13 mg/L0 mg/L100
PFOS400 ppt1.52 ppt99.62
PFOA1,060 pptNon detect100
PFHxS151 pptNon detect100
PFNA204 pptNon detect100
PFBS424 pptNon detect100
This table shows performance data for the ALTS in the desert landfill
ALTS treated
reduction (%)
TOC10,000 mg/L32 mg/L99.7
TDS28,000 mg/L1,370 mg/L95.1
TSS390 mg/L3.5 mg/L99.1
Oil/greaseNon detectNon detectN/A
BOD2,330 mg/L76 mg/L96.7
COD40,000 mg/L101 mg/L99.7
PFBS27,500 ng/LNon detect100
PFHxA7,560 ng/LNon detect100
PFBA1,750 ng/LNon detect100
PFPeA1,810 ng/LNon detect100
PFOA934 ng/LNon detect100
PFHxS352 ng/LNon detect100
This table shows performance data for the ALTS in the Gulf Coast landfill

The data shows successful treatment of all contaminants, which requires a treatment system that utilizes multiple methods. Let’s dig into the contaminants themselves and their preferred treatment methods.

1. Total organic carbon (TOC)

TOC measures the concentration of carbon present in organic compounds within the leachate.

The most common TOC removal method is via adsorption filters. While the results may vary depending on the contaminant load, we can typically remove at least 99.5% of TOC from leachate with the nanofiltration module.

ALTS treated
reduction (%)
Desert30,800 mg/L48 mg/L99.8
Gulf Coast10,000 mg/L32 mg/L99.7
This table shows the TOC levels at both landfills before and after treatment

2. Total dissolved solids (TDS)

TDS measures the combined concentration of inorganic and organic substances dissolved in the leachate. Leachate high in TDS can gunk up treatment systems that aren’t designed to filter it out and cause maintenance problems — especially in reverse osmosis (RO) systems.

The first module in the ALTS is an ultrafiltration (UF) system, designed to filter out the solids first, so they don’t cause problems in the other downstream modules. The nanofiltration and reverse osmosis modules clean up what’s left. It historically removes more than 95% of TDS from leachate.

ALTS treated
reduction (%)
Desert80,800 mg/L204 mg/L99.75
Gulf Coast28,000 mg/L1,370 mg/L95.1
This table shows the TDS levels at both landfills before and after treatment

3. Total suspended solids (TSS)

TSS measures the concentration of solid particles suspended in leachate. Like TDS, they’ll cause maintenance trouble if not handled properly, so we treat them with a UF module.

Unlike TDS, the EPA has outlined an explicit secondary treatment standard for acceptable levels of TSS in effluent water. Treated effluent should have a 30-day average TSS content at or below 30mg/L, and treatment practices should remove at least 85% of TSS by concentration.

(Entirely biological treatment processes are granted a larger acceptable TSS concentration in effluent water).

ALTS treated
reduction (%)
Gulf Coast390 mg/L3.5 mg/L99.1
This table shows the TSS levels at the Gulf Coast landfill before and after treatment

The ALTS targets TSS with its UF module and typically achieves greater than 99% TSS removal.

4. Oil and grease

This measure is more self-explanatory and covers multiple hydrocarbons like fats, oils and related substances. Oil-water separators aid hydrocarbon filtering traditionally.

The ALTS handles oil and grease by separating via mechanical screen, as well as through UF.

ALTS treated
reduction (%)
Desert13 mg/L0 mg/L100
Gulf CoastNon detectNon detectN/A
This table shows the oil and grease levels at both landfills before and after treatment

5. pH

pH measures the acidity or alkalinity of your leachate. EPA standards require effluent water within a range of 6.0 – 9.0.

While the nanofiltration stage can add hardness to pH, it’s usually managed by introducing a base or acid before full treatment.

6. Biochemical oxygen demand (BOD)

BOD measures the concentration of oxygen-demanding organic pollutants in your leachate. Acceptable and unacceptable levels are determined by modeling and set by the EPA. Secondary treatment standards set acceptable concentrations at a 30-day average of 30mg/L or less. But some states have different regulations.

Whether you need to hit the federal regulations or a stricter state limit, we can customize your system to reach your BOD goals.

ALTS treated
reduction (%)
Gulf Coast2,330 mg/L76 mg/L96.7
This table shows the BOD levels at the Gulf Coast landfill before and after treatment

7. Chemical oxygen demand (COD)

COD measures the concentration of oxygen-demanding organic and inorganic pollutants in your leachate. It indicates the oxygen demand placed on the natural environment where effluent water is distributed — higher levels are more likely to be harmful to aquatic life. Unlike BOD, the EPA hasn’t set a COD standard, but many states have.

Within the ALTS, the RO module filters the COD out of the leachate.

ALTS treated
reduction (%)
Gulf Coast40,000 mg/L101 mg/L99.7
This table shows the COD levels at the Gulf Coast landfill before and after treatment

8. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFOS/PFAS/PFOA)

PFOS/PFAS/PFOA measure the presence of a suite of industrial “forever” chemicals in your leachate. They are becoming a hot topic in wastewater conversations. While the EPA recently placed limits on the acceptable amount of these chemicals in drinking water, it has not yet enacted regulations for effluent water, although some states may soon regulate PFAS in leachate.

The ALTS relies on its RO modules, as well as a final pass across activated carbon beds, to achieve removal of PFOS/PFAS/PFOA.

ALTS treated
reduction (%)
DesertPFOS400 ppt1.52 ppt99.62
DesertPFOA1,060 pptNon detect100
DesertPFHxS151 pptNon detect100
DesertPFNA204 pptNon detect100
DesertPFBS424 pptNon detect100
Gulf CoastPFBS27,500 ng/LNon detect100
Gulf CoastPFHxA7,560 ng/LNon detect100
Gulf CoastPFBA1,750 ng/LNon detect100
Gulf CoastPFPeA1,810 ng/LNon detect100
Gulf CoastPFOA934 ng/LNon detect100
Gulf CoastPFHxS352 ng/LNon detect100
This table shows the PFOS/PFAS/PFOA levels at both landfills before and after treatment

Want to talk about the specific contaminants you’re dealing with?

We know as well as anyone that every landfill is different. If you’re running out of space for leachate ponds or emptying your pockets for offsite leachate treatment to stay within your permits, get in touch.

We can start outlining your pay-as-you-go leachate treatment system, to save you money and put some distance between your contaminant levels and your permit limits.

It’s a nightmare come true for many landfills: The closest publicly owned treatment works (POTW) stops accepting your leachate.

Maybe it’s too contaminated.

Maybe they can take some, but not all of it.

Or maybe they simply jacked the price up too high to be economically feasible.

Regardless, when this happens to you, you’ll have two options. You could bite the bullet and rack up even more transportation costs by trucking your leachate to another POTW that may or may not take it. Or you could find a new way to manage your leachate.

And POTW regulations concerning discharge cleanliness standards, the amount of leachate POTWs are allowed to take and the concentration of contaminants in that waste continue to tighten, you likely will need to find a new way to manage your leachate.

The Atmos Leachate Treatment System (ALTS) is the alternative way of cleaning your leachate. It filters out contaminants by combining three technologies (ultra filtration, nano filtration and reverse osmosis), leaving you with clean water you can dispose of or reuse in your operations.

But is it right for your needs? Consider these three questions:

  1. How much leachate do you produce and how contaminated is it?
  2. What are you doing with your leachate now?
  3. Do you want to reuse or dispose your water?

How much leachate do you produce and how contaminated is it?

The quantity and quality of your leachate impacts the Atmos Leachate Treatment System’s efficacy at your landfill. Let’s look closer at each of these factors.

The amount of leachate you produce

In a 24-hour period, the ALTS processes up to 70,000 gallons of leachate.

To treat quantities outside that range (either less than 15,000 to 20,000 gallons, or more than 70,000), you may need to adjust the system.

Thanks to the ALTS’ modular design, customizing the combination of technologies to meet your landfill’s needs is simple. Whether you only need to combat certain contaminants, require more modules to increase capacity or need less support to accommodate fewer gallons, we build the system to your specifications.

But how much leachate the ALTS cleans also depends on how dirty your leachate is to begin with.

Your contaminant load

If you’re interested in the ALTS, one of the first steps is sending us your raw leachate data. Once we understand your contaminant load and your goals, we can start designing a system that’s right for your landfill.

But don’t worry, we designed the ALTS to handle the worst of the worst. Here’s an example of the typical results you might see with the treatment system in place.

ContaminantRaw leachateALTS treated leachateContaminant
reduction (%)
TOC30,800 mg/L48 mg/L99.8
Oil/grease13 mg/L0 mg/L100
TDS80,800 mg/L204 mg/L99.75
Chloride9,280 mg/L28 mg/L99.7
Acetone30,500 ug/L94 ug/L99.69
Butanone16,200 ug/L0 ug/L100
PFOS400 ppt1.52 ppt99.62
PFOA1,060 pptNon detect100
PFHxS151 pptNon detect100
PFNA204 pptNon detect100
PFBS424 pptNon detect100

If you only need to reduce the amount of ammonia in your leachate, consider bioaugmentation. This natural, cost-effective fix uses microorganisms to lower ammonia nitrate levels until they’re within the acceptable range for a POTW or other treatment method.

What are you doing with your leachate now? Is it actually working for your landfill’s sustainability goals?

Trucking leachate to the nearest POTW tops the list of the most common leachate management methods, but other strategies exist. And in certain circumstances, sticking with those solutions could make more sense for your landfill.

Ponds and other evaporators

Another common management method is to dig a large pond to collect the leachate for eventual evaporation. This process takes time and often depends on the weather. For example, a rainy season could slow evaporation down even further. Similarly, evaporators atomize the leachate, speeding up the natural evaporation that happens in ponds.

Landfills often run into capacity issues with both of these methods.

Reverse osmosis on its own

The ALTS’ third and final module uses reverse osmosis to filter out the finest contaminants, like PFOS and PFAS. And while R/O excels at removing those, it handles larger contaminants poorly. These larger contaminants, such as dissolved solids, tend to clog the expensive R/O membranes, resulting in slower volumes and more frequent R/O membrane replacements.

Much like ponds and other evaporators, reverse osmosis-only solutions can have a much smaller capacity than the Atmos Leachate Treatment System.

On-site wastewater treatment plants

By building the equivalent of your own POTW at your landfill, you could process your own leachate without having to worry about trucking and other additional fees. However, facilities like this take years and at least $4-5 million in CapEx to build. For smaller landfills, it’s just not an option, even if it would reduce costs long term.

In contrast, the ALTS requires no capital expenditure, and we can design, build and install it in 12 weeks, which makes it an effective solution for landfills of any size.

Bioreactor or anaerobic digestors

As the most expensive option, any kind of microbial-based solution becomes a massive undertaking that requires a high quantity of leachate and a lot of open space. But it also results in the lowest treatment cost. If your landfill has a solution like this in place, you likely don’t need an additional leachate management system.

Direct access to a POTW

Finally, while rare and becoming rarer, some landfills have standing agreements with their local POTWs to pipe leachate directly to the facility.

If your landfill lucked out with a sweetheart deal like this — or operates near enough to a POTW to have minimal transportation costs — this is the more cost-effective solution. After all, if a treatment facility accepts your raw leachate as is, what’s the point in cleaning it?

But arrangements like this are vanishing. Just because this option exists, doesn’t mean it will six months to a year down the road as POTWs increase their prices and discontinue service for landfills with high contaminant loads.

For example, a landfill in the Pacific Northwest recently found itself in this exact situation — suddenly cut off. Not only had its heavily contaminated leachate pushed the POTW beyond the limits of its permit, but the leachate had also started killing the facility’s bacteria. Stuck, they turned to the ALTS and found a new solution for their leachate.

If you use any of these solutions, ask yourself these questions

Are you keeping up with leachate production?

Are you getting your intended results?

If you answered no to either, a two-pronged approach — or a new method entirely — may be right for your operations. We’ve implemented the ALTS as a full-scale solution in some cases, but also as a supplementary strategy when necessary.

It may feel like an expensive, redundant hassle to add another leachate management system if you already have a capital-intense one in place. But if you aren’t seeing the results you need, you may need another option.

Do you want to reuse or dispose your water

How clean you need your leachate to be depends on what you want to do with the water.

After the Atmos Leachate Treatment System filters your leachate’s contaminants out, you have many sustainable options for what you do with the water, including:

Your goals impact which permits you need from the EPA or your county. Our team of experts can guide you through this process and design your ALTS to meet the necessary requirements.

For example, NDPES permits for direct discharge into U.S. waters come with a plethora of red tape, but permits for direct land application for uses that stay on site (such as for crop irrigation) aren’t as strictly controlled.

Take control of your leachate management

\You need a powerful, versatile strategy to clean your leachate. If you think the Atmos Leachate Treatment System could be right for your landfill, get in touch with our team. We’ll discuss your leachate, your goals and how we can help you reach them.

It’s 4 p.m.

The last truck of the day just dumped its waste and the rest of the trash has already been compacted properly, meaning your team can finally start applying daily cover. For the next three hours, four employees will drive a dozer up and down the slopes, hauling your limited supply of dirt to the open working face.

Tomorrow, they’ll have to spend a few more hours scraping it all off again.

This is not a sustainable daily cover solution — not financially, environmentally or for your employees.

Fortunately, there is another option for landfills looking to ditch the dirt for a better solution. Atmos’ Alternative Daily Cover foam isn’t just quicker, easier and safer to apply, but it’s also a greener daily cover option.

Let’s take a closer look.

1: The foam contains no PFOS or PFAS, meaning it doesn’t add forever chemicals to leachate

PFOS and PFAS, also known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances or forever chemicals, are today’s biggest challenge for landfills.

These chemicals — which may cause harm to humans and animals — come from both everyday products, like textiles and packaging, as well as from sewage sludge, pesticides and food products.

When these products wind up at landfills, PFOS and PFAS don’t degrade naturally over time. They seep into leachate. As the parts per trillion in the leachate grows, it becomes more difficult to remove enough that it can be safely disposed of.

But PFOS and PFAS aren’t just found in wastes; they’re also found in water, air and soil around the world. This means that using dirt for daily cover could actually be adding to the PFOS and PFAS levels in your leachate.

Our water-based alternative daily cover foam is PFOS- and PFAS-free, meaning it won’t contribute to the concentration of forever chemicals at your landfill.

Made of aerated water, protein, food-grade starches and proprietary surfactants, the biodegradable foam expands 20-to-1 on application. Then, over the course of 24-48 hours, it dehydrates from a shaving cream consistency into a flaky powder.

Not only is the ADC foam environmentally safe, but it also won’t irritate skin, eliminating the need for wash basins and eye-wash stations.

2: Not just effective — but also safe for your landfill and community

Subtitle D requires landfills to cover their working faces daily to control for odors, fire, scavenging, blowing litter and disease vectors. Our alternative daily cover foam solves for all these factors while also reducing the labor-intensive process of using dirt.

But how does it work? The dense, nonflammable foam creates an impermeable barrier that traps complaint-producing odors and other vectors in, locking them down. And with the waste secured, there’s nothing for creatures to scavenge and no loose litter to blow around.

While the EPA approved Subtitle D landfills to use our foam as daily cover almost 40 years ago, permission for individual landfills is determined at the municipal level. Don’t worry, though: We’ve never had a local governing body deny the use of our foam.

3: Works in almost any environment

To be effective as daily cover, the foam must maintain its integrity for at least 24 hours, but up to 72 to ensure adequate coverage over weekends. Adjusting the longevity of the foam is as simple as changing the ratio of the chemical base to water. For example, a 4-to-1 water to chemical ratio will last the weekend, while a 6-to-1 ratio will last overnight.

Weather doesn’t weaken the foam, either. Hot and cold temperatures won’t weaken its viability, and while a severe downpour or a full day of steady rain may break up the foam, a simple rain shower is nothing to worry about. In fact, humidity even rehydrates the foam, helping it last longer. To keep your landfill’s operation running in all climates, the foam application trucks and chemical storage tanks are heated, cooled and insulated.

4: Flexible formula tackles even the toughest projects

While we designed our foam to be used as daily cover, remediation projects represent another useful application.

During remediation projects, it’s not out of the ordinary to work with volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These materials produce noxious odors and are also typically stored in densely populated areas before they’re hauled to a landfill.

A remediation project in a populated area

To mitigate those odors, our foam locks onto the waste material and traps those VOCs in. Often this material doesn’t stay in the staging area for longer than a day, so there are no concerns about the foam’s structure — it even floats for pond and other water remediation projects.

No two remediation projects are the same, but our foam has been used for everything from petrochemical dredging to covering railcars as they transport materials to landfills.

5: No capital expense means quicker approvals

When you work with Atmos, we own, supply and maintain all the equipment you need, including the chemical storage tanks and Morooka foam applicator. That way, it guarantees you get the proprietary equipment you need to properly aerate the foam, apply it at the correct pressure and handle its viscosity… all with no capital expense.

Instead, our services come from your operational budget. This means you don’t have to purchase CapEx equipment or go through lengthy budget approval processes to get started.

Make us your sustainable solution

Meet daily cover requirements without introducing more forever chemicals into your landfill.

For an effective daily cover or remediation solution that’s friendly for the environment and your community, get in touch with our team. Let’s talk about your goals.

Daily cover shouldn’t be a daily struggle. Get to know our Morooka and see how quick and straightforward it is to apply Atmos’ Alternative Daily Cover to your landfill’s working face.

In this video, we’ll show you: 

Watch now, and request a consultation to learn how your landfill would benefit from Atmos’ alternative daily cover.

When your landfill starts working with Atmos Technologies, you’ll go through our tried-and-true four-step process. First, we’ll investigate your landfill. Then, we’ll design your solution. Next, we’ll implement it. And finally, we’ll maintain your equipment.

In this video, VP of landfill solutions Paul Tuckner covers:

Watch it now and get in touch to learn how ADC would impact your landfill.