The study consisted in the analysis of the mobilization mechanisms of hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)) into groundwater from a decommissioned contaminated factory. The site is located in the Province of Vicenza and formerly was a chrome-plating plant. The subsoil consists predominantly of gravelly deposits with a thickness of at least one hundred meters. An unconfined aquifer is present with water table at about 23 m depth bgl. During the seven years of monitoring (2008-2014), the fluctuation of groundwater level was more than 6 m; hydraulic conductivity is about 1.0E-03 m/s and groundwater seepage velocity about 12 m/day. At the area of the source of contamination, the unsaturated soil is contaminated by hexavalent chromium throughout the thickness: concentrations range from 200 to 500 mg/kg. At the bottom of zone of groundwater level fluctuation, the hexavalent chromium concentration decreases to below the detection limit. The available data (e.g. hexavalent chromium concentrations in groundwater, groundwater level, local rainfall) give the opportunity to assess the effects, on the magnitude of groundwater contamination, of the effective infiltration versus the fluctuation of groundwater level. The main analysis was performed on a statistical basis, in order to find out which of the two factors was most likely related to the periodic peaks of hexavalent chromium concentration in groundwater. Statistical analysis results were verified by a mass balance. Data show that at the site both the effective infiltration through the unsaturated zone and the leaching of soil contaminated by groundwater, when it exceeds a certain piezometric level, lead to peak concentrations of hexavalent chromium, even if with characteristics and effects different.
hexavalent chromium, solute transport, unsaturated zone