A multidisciplinary procedure to evaluate and optimize the efficacy of hydraulic barriers in contaminated sites: a case study in Northern Italy

  • Alessandro Chelli
  • Andrea ZaniniEmail author
  • Emma Petrella
  • Alessandra Feo
  • Fulvio Celico
Original Article


In the last decades, hydraulic barriers have been activated in a large number of polluted sites with the aim of preventing groundwater pollution outside the contaminated area. From a regulatory point of view, there is the need of evaluating the efficacy of these barriers. For this reason, the goal of the present study is to apply a coupled experimental modelling approach aimed at evaluating the efficacy of the barrier and providing management strategies. In particular, a case study in Italy is investigated. The study case is of main interest because of its complexity due to a heterogeneous aquifer and the presence of surface water that interacts with the below aquifer. The study has been carried out through the experimental characterization of the aquifer system (coupling the classic stratigraphic techniques with the results of radiocarbon dating, as well as through pumping and injection tests) and its hydrogeological behaviour (by means of hydraulic- and the stream-head measurements, as well as some isotopic investigations), and the implementation of a numerical model (through MODFLOW 2005). The results show the effectiveness of the coupled experimental modelling approach to analyse and simulate the hydrodynamics within the test aquifer system, as well as to evaluate the efficacy of the hydraulic barrier. Based on the results of the numerical model, easy solutions were designed to manage the barrier.


MODFLOW Groundwater management Stable isotopes Groundwater modelling Radiocarbon dating 



We warmly acknowledge Roberto Pecoraro, Massimo Gialli, Domenico Iaconetta, Antonina Lutri, Francesco Giudice, Enrico Galeotti, Jean Pierre Davit and Emanuele Scanferla for providing the data used in the present work and for useful discussions. The authors are grateful to the three anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and suggestions on this work.


This study was funded by Versalis (eni).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

12665_2018_7420_MOESM1_ESM.docx (417 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 417 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Chemistry, Life Sciences and Environmental SustainabilityUniversity of ParmaParmaItaly
  2. 2.Department of Engineering and ArchitectureUniversity of ParmaParmaItaly

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