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A check on the efficiency of an air-bubble screen using acoustic measurements and an artificial tracer

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A working group, composed of the University of Genoa (Italy), responsible for monitoring the dredging of the Port of Genoa, and Royal Boskalis Westminster N.V. (The Netherlands), responsible for the dredging activities, carried out an experiment on closing a landfill area with a double air bubble-screen (ABS) to verify the efficiency both of this method of containing sediment and of the measurement method applied.

Materials and methods

Within the Port of Genoa dredging, which was started in 2009, the dredged material is used to fill two areas between existing quays. To contain the sediment to be placed into a third subbasin without interrupting the passage of the barges which discharge the sediment, the use of an ABS was proposed as a barrier to the spreading of the sediment. The experiment was carried out during a 4-day oceanographic campaign to verify, preliminarily, the results under different weather and sea conditions. An artificial tracer, rhodamine water tracing (RWT), was used in varying concentrations to simulate the spreading of the sediment, and an RWT sensor and an acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP) were used to measure the RWT distribution and verify the efficiency of the ABS.

Results and discussion

The high turbidity in the port and the high rate of RWT dilution made it relatively difficult to detect the RWT. The RWT sensor sometimes measured higher values than expected probably due to the following: the recirculation of the tracer in current eddies, other sensible suspended matter and adsorption of RWT on suspended matter. The internal ABS could not retain all the RWT, possibly because it was much weaker than the external one, and because mitigating measures, like silt screens or ABSs, are not totally closed and should not be used if complete impermeability is required. The ABS introduction accentuated the natural separation between the basin and the channel water bodies creating a barrier between the two basins.


An ABS installed at the entrance to a confined area with low dynamics results in a circular vertical flow with the potential to retain suspended sediments within an enclosed area. The meteorological variability during the tests showed that a weak ABS could malfunction in the presence of strong wind condition. The results showed that the ADCP is a suitable instrument to highlight the ABS position and its effect on the surrounding hydrodynamics. Further research, using a sediment tracer, is required to study with greater detail the effects of the ABS on the water column.

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The authors wish to thank Professor Paul K. Nixon for the English revision of the manuscript, Officers and Crews of the M/V Maso and the Tug Halli for their assistance during the experiment, and all the colleagues involved in this work. We also thank Professor Wim Uijttewaal, TU Delft, for the clarification of the turbid fluid. We are particular grateful for the many helpful suggestions provided by the reviewers of this manuscript. This study was funded by the Research Fund of the Port Authority of Genoa.

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Correspondence to Marco Capello.

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Responsible editor: Trudy J. Estes

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Cutroneo, L., van der Goot, F., Roels, A. et al. A check on the efficiency of an air-bubble screen using acoustic measurements and an artificial tracer. J Soils Sediments 14, 1626–1637 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11368-014-0915-3

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  • ADCP
  • Air-bubble screen
  • Dredging
  • Rhodamine water tracing