A geo-chemo-mechanical study of a highly polluted marine system (Taranto, Italy) for the enhancement of the conceptual site model

Sci Rep. 2021 Feb 17;11(1):4017. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-82879-w.


The paper presents the results of the analysis of the geo-chemo-mechanical data gathered through an innovative multidisciplinary investigation campaign in the Mar Piccolo basin, a heavily polluted marine bay aside the town of Taranto (Southern Italy). The basin is part of an area declared at high environmental risk by the Italian government. The cutting-edge approach to the environmental characterization of the site was promoted by the Special Commissioner for urgent measures of reclamation, environmental improvements and redevelopment of Taranto and involved experts from several research fields, who cooperated to gather a new insight into the origin, distribution, mobility and fate of the contaminants within the basin. The investigation campaign was designed to implement advanced research methodologies and testing strategies. Differently from traditional investigation campaigns, aimed solely at the assessment of the contamination state within sediments lying in the top layers, the new campaign provided an interpretation of the geo-chemo-mechanical properties and state of the sediments forming the deposit at the seafloor. The integrated, multidisciplinary and holistic approach, that considered geotechnical engineering, electrical and electronical engineering, geological, sedimentological, mineralogical, hydraulic engineering, hydrological, chemical, geochemical, biological fields, supported a comprehensive understanding of the influence of the contamination on the hydro-mechanical properties of the sediments, which need to be accounted for in the selection and design of the risk mitigation measures. The findings of the research represent the input ingredients of the conceptual model of the site, premise to model the evolutionary contamination scenarios within the basin, of guidance for the environmental risk management. The study testifies the importance of the cooperative approach among researchers of different fields to fulfil the interpretation of complex polluted eco-systems.