At the sanitary landfill of the city of Penzberg (Germany), two diverse approaches to leachate treatment were studied as parts of a three-stage treatment concept. The performance of a simple aerobic pond was compared to that of an advanced multistage treatment unit, the latter comprising a membrane biological reactor and a two-stage activated carbon filter. For 274 days of the year (75%) the pond was able to provide sufficient treatment even under cold weather conditions. For temperatures lower than 5°C, a higher biomass content and temporal storage of the raw leachate (e.g. increasing hydraulic retention time) could close the gap of insufficient treatment. In contrast, the advanced treatment system could only accomplish limited treatment capabilities due to insufficient maintenance, low loading conditions and deficient coordination between the individual treatment steps. As a result, degradation rates were low and operational problems frequent. Limits for Ntot were exceeded regularly (Ntot,e = 60–70 mg/L), throughput broke down and excessive nitrite production occurred (NO2-Ne = 10 mg/L) as a result of microbial activity inside the activated carbon filters. This case study clearly suggests aerobic ponds as an appropriate solution for the treatment of landfill leachate in areas where operational independence is essential.

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