Disentangling natural and anthropogenic impacts on groundwater by hydrogeochemical, isotopic and microbiological data: Hints from a municipal solid waste landfill
Elisabetta Preziosi, Eleonora Frollini, Annamaria Zoppini, Stefano Ghergo, Marco Melita, Daniele Parrone, David Rossi, Stefano Amalfitano
Waste Management, 2019


Within human-impacted areas, high levels of inorganic compounds in groundwater are broadly and preventively attributed to local anthropogenic pollution, thoroughly disregarding geogenic natural background levels. Particularly in landfills, a proper evaluation of the significant adverse environmental effects should be completed through a detailed groundwater characterization, and appropriate reference values established prior to landfill onset. However, the monitoring network may lack a full hydrogeological representativeness of the site and of the background conditions of groundwater.
This study aimed at disentangling natural and anthropogenic impacts through a synoptic analysis of hydrogeochemical, isotopic and microbiological characteristics of groundwaters from a municipal solid waste landfill area in Central Italy. Samples were collected during four seasonal monitoring surveys from the mostly anoxic aquifer underlying the target area. Field parameters, inorganic and organic compounds, environmental isotopes, faecal contamination, and microbial community characteristics were determined, along with a detailed hydrogeological conceptual model. Key inorganic contaminants (As, Fe and Mn) exceeded the local threshold values in most of the sampling points, while organic contamination was generally very low. Stable isotopes suggested that groundwater originated mainly from local rainfall, except at one monitoring points where tritium levels might indicate moderate impact. Microbiological data and the microbial community characterization, assessed by flow cytometry and BIOLOG assays, provided further supportive information, also highlighting fundamental effects of groundwater quality alterations. Overall, an integrated multi-parametric approach proved suitable to distinguish geogenic and anthropogenic impacts, thus improving strategies and schemes for protection and management of groundwaters in landfills and waste related industrial areas.

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