SEGH Articles

Assessment of the environmental conditions of the Calore river basin (south Italy): a stream sediment approach

23 October 2015
Daniela Zuzolo from the University of Sannio won the Hemphill prize for best student presentation at SEGH 2015 in Bratislava. She provides a follow-up on her presentation.



In 2014 we carried out a study on the stream sediments of the Calore river (a tributary of the Volturno, the biggest south-Italian river) to assess the environmental conditions of a basin that covers 3058 Km2 (Fig.1) of the Campania region and that, until now, has been only marginally studied from this point of view.


Our study showed that, despite evidence from concentrations of many elements for enrichment over natural background values, the spatial distribution of major and trace elements in Calore river basin is determined mostly by geogenic factors. Figure 2 shows the main lithological features of the study area, while Figure 3 shows the spatial distribution of elemental association factor scores.





The south-western area of the basin highlighted an enrichment of many elements potentially harmful for human health and other living organisms (Al, Fe, K, Na, As, Cd, La, Pb, Th, Tl, U); but these anomalies are due to the presence of pyroclastics and alkaline volcanic lithologies.

Even where sedimentary lithologies occur (in northern area), many harmful elements (Co, Cr, Mn, Ni) have shown high concentration levels due to a natural origin.





On the other hand, a strong heavy metal contamination (Pb, Zn, Cu, Sb, Ag, Au, Hg), due to an anthropic contribution, is highlighted in many areas characterised by the presence of road junctions, urban settlements and industrial areas. Figure 4 highlights the enrichment factors of these elements: 3 - 4 time higher than the background values. The south-western area of the basin is characterised by a moderate/high degree of contamination (Fig.5), just where the two busiest roads of the area run and the highest concentration of industries occurs.


We assessed the distribution of the potentially harmful elements (PHE) and the related interpretations using geochemical indexes, chemometric approach and mapping of the other relevant information, all linked to PHE distribution.

First of all, 562 stream sediment samples were collected, air-dried, sieved to < 100 mesh fraction and analyzed for 37 elements after an aqua regia extraction by a combination of ICP-AES and ICP-MS.

Univariate and multivariate statistical analyses of data were performed to show the single element distribution and the distribution of elemental association factor scores resulting from R-mode factor analyses, in order to interpret the hypothetical origin of elements’ distribution (natural, anthropogenic or mixed).

The degree of contamination of the area was evaluated through analysing the Contamination Factor index and the production of a Contamination Degree map.

This approach proved successful as it achieved meaningful results and interpretations of complex datasets. It represents a useful tool to evaluate the hypothetical origin of geochemical anomalies of stream sediments; it also allows a quantitative assessment of the metal pollution threat to ecosystem and human health.

by Daniela Zuzoloa*, Domenico Cicchellaa, Lucia Giaccioa, Ilaria Guagliardib, Libera Espositoa

a - Department of Science and Technology, University of Sannio, via dei Mulini 59/A, 82100 - Benevento, Italy

b - Department of Biology, Ecology and Earth Sciences, University of Calabria, Via Ponte Bucci 4, cubo 15B, I-87036 Arcavacata di Rende (CS), Italy

Keep up to date

Submit Content

Members can keep in touch with their colleagues through short news and events articles of interest to the SEGH community.

Science in the News

Latest on-line papers from the SEGH journal: Environmental Geochemistry and Health

  • Earthworms and vermicompost: an eco-friendly approach for repaying nature’s debt 2020-01-23


    The steady increase in the world’s population has intensified the need for crop productivity, but the majority of the agricultural practices are associated with adverse effects on the environment. Such undesired environmental outcomes may be mitigated by utilizing biological agents as part of farming practice. The present review article summarizes the analyses of the current status of global agriculture and soil scenarios; a description of the role of earthworms and their products as better biofertilizer; and suggestions for the rejuvenation of such technology despite significant lapses and gaps in research and extension programs. By maintaining a close collaboration with farmers, we have recognized a shift in their attitude and renewed optimism toward nature-based green technology. Based on these relations, it is inferred that the application of earthworm-mediated vermitechnology increases sustainable development by strengthening the underlying economic, social and ecological framework.

    Graphic abstract

  • Plasticizers and bisphenol A in Adyar and Cooum riverine sediments, India: occurrences, sources and risk assessment 2020-01-23


    Adyar and Cooum, the two rivers intersecting Chennai city, are exposed to serious pollution due to the release of large quantities of dumped waste, untreated wastewater and sewage. Sediments can act as repository for emerging organic contaminants. Hence, we have monitored the occurrence and risk associated with plasticizers [six phthalic acid esters (PAEs), bis(2-ethyl hexyl adipate) (DEHA)] and bisphenol A (BPA) in surface riverine sediments of Adyar and Cooum rivers from residential/commercial, industrial and electronic waste recycling sites. Σ7plasticizers (PAEs + DEHA) in the Adyar riverine sediment (ARS) and Cooum riverine sediment (CRS) varied between 51.82–1796 and 28.13–856 ng/g, respectively. More than three-fourth of Σ7plasticizers came from bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), in accordance with the high production and usage of this compound. BPA varied between 10.70–2026 and 7.58–1398 ng/g in ARS and CRS, respectively. Average concentrations of plasticizers and BPA were four times higher in electronic waste (e-waste) recycling sites when compared with industrial and residential/commercial sites. BPA and DEHP showed a strong and significant correlation (R2 = 0.7; p < 0.01) in the e-waste sites thereby indicating common source types. Sites present at close proximity to raw sewage pumping stations contributed to 70% of the total BPA observed in this study. For the derived pore water concentration of plasticizers and BPA, the ecotoxicological risk has been found to be higher in ARS over CRS. However, sediment concentrations in all the sites of ARS and CRS were much below the recommended serious risk concentration for human (SRChuman) and serious risk concentration for ecotoxicological (SRCeco).

  • Distribution of metal(loid)s in particle size fraction in urban soil and street dust: influence of population density 2020-01-18


    Assessment of street dust is an invaluable approach for monitoring atmospheric pollution. Little information is available on the size distribution of contaminants in street dusts and urban soils, and it is not known how the population density would influence them. This research was carried out to assess the size distribution of trace metal(loid)s in street dust and urban soil, and to understand how population density might influence the size-resolved concentration of metal(loid)s. Three urban areas with a high, medium and low population density and a natural area were selected and urban soil and street dust sampled. They were fractionated into 8 size fractions: 2000–850, 850–180, 180–106, 106–50, 50–20, 20–10, 10–2, and < 2 µm. The concentration of Pb, Zn, Cu, Cd, Cr, Ni, As, and Fe was determined, and enrichment factor and grain size fraction loadings were computed. The results indicated that the concentration of Pb, Zn, Cu, Cd, and Cr was highly size dependent, particularly for particles < 100 µm, especially for street dust. Low concentrations of Ni and As in street dust and urban soil were size and population density independent. Higher size dependency of the metals concentration and the higher degree of elemental enrichment in the street dust fractions than the urban soils indicate higher contribution of human-induced pollution to the dust. Findings also confirm the inevitability of size fractionation when soils or dusts are environmentally assessed, particularly in moderately to highly polluted areas. Otherwise, higher concentrations of certain pollutants in fine-sized particles might be overlooked leading to inappropriate decisions for environmental remediation.