Potential water quality impacts originating from land burial of cattle carcasses

Qi Yuan, Daniel D. Snow, Shannon L. Bartelt-Hunt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Among the conventional disposal methods for livestock mortalities, on-farm burial is a preferred method, but the potential water quality impacts of animal carcass burial are not well understood. Typically, on-farm burial pits are constructed without liners and any leachate produced may infiltrate into soil and groundwater. To date, no information is available on temporal trends for contaminants in leachate produced from livestock mortality pits. In our study, we examined the concentrations of conventional contaminants including electrical conductivity, COD, TOC, TKN, TP, and solids, as well as veterinary antimicrobials and steroid hormones in leachate over a period of 20. months. Most of the contaminants were detected in leachate after 50. days of decomposition, reaching a peak concentration at approximately 200. days and declined to baseline levels by 400. days. The estrogen 17β-estradiol and a veterinary antimicrobial, monensin, were observed at maximum concentrations of 20,069. ng/L and 11,980. ng/L, respectively. Estimated mass loading of total steroid hormone and veterinary pharmaceuticals were determined to be 1.84 and 1.01. μg/kg of buried cattle carcass materials, respectively. These data indicate that leachate from carcass burial sites represents a potential source of nutrients, organics, and residues of biologically active micro-contaminants to soil and groundwater.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)246-253
Number of pages8
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Jul 1 2013


  • Burial
  • Cattle carcasses
  • Leachate
  • Organic contaminants
  • Steroids
  • Veterinary pharmaceuticals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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