U.S. EPA Contaminated Site Cleanup Information (CLU-IN)

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
U.S. EPA Technology Innovation and Field Services Division


Policy and Guidance

OSWER Directive 9285.6-08 sets out 11 principles for managing contaminated sediments for the Superfund and RCRA Solid Waste programs. Project managers are expected to consider these principles when planning and implementing site investigations and cleanups involving sediments. These principles are:

  • Control sources early
  • Involve the community early and often
  • Coordinate with states, local governments, tribes, and natural resource trustees
  • Develop and refine a conceptual site model that considers sediment stability
  • Use an iterative approach in a risk-based framework
  • Carefully evaluate the assumptions and uncertainties associated with site characterization data and site models
  • Select site specific, project specific, and sediment specific risk-management approaches that will achieve risk-based goals
  • Ensure that sediment cleanup levels are clearly ties to risk-management goals
  • Maximize the effectiveness of institutional controls and recognize their limitations
  • Design remedies to minimize short-term risks while achieving long-term protection
  • Monitor during and after sediment remediation to assess and document remedy effectiveness

To ensure that these principles are considered at sediment sites, the Directive sets up a two-tiered consultation process. Tier one consultations involve sites with more than 10,000 cubic yards or five acres of contaminated sediments. Superfund remedial project managers (RPMs) are required to consult with their appropriate Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation (OSRTI) Regional Coordinator at least 30 days before issuing a proposed plan or engineering evaluation/cost analysis (EE/CA) for public comment. The consultation entails submission of the draft proposed plan or EE/CA, a written discussion of how the 11 principles were considered, and basic site information. RCRA site project managers submit this information to the Office of Solid Waste's Corrective Action Branch.

The Directive establishes the Contaminated Sediments Technical Advisory Group to monitor progress and provide advice for Tier 2 sites, which involve a small number of large, complex, or controversial contaminated sediment Superfund sites. The Group's role is further described in OSWER Directive 9285.6-20, Changes to the Roles and Responsibilities of the Contaminated Sediments Technical Advisory Group (CSTAG)Adobe PDF Logo.

Guidelines for the OSRTI Review of Consideration Memos on Tier 1 Sediment SitesAdobe PDF Logo were issued in March 2004 as an attachment to OSWER Directive 9285.6-08. These guidelines provide a tool for OSRTI regional coordinators to use when evaluating how well RPMs have documented their consideration of the Directive's principles when evaluating alternatives and proposing a remedy at a site.

Adobe PDF LogoPrinciples for Managing Contaminated Sediment Risks at Hazardous Waste Sites
USEPA Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation
OSWER Directive 9285.6-08, 11 pp, 2002

Adobe PDF LogoChanges to the Roles and Responsibilities of the Contaminated Sediments Technical Advisory Group (CSTAG)
USEPA, Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation
OSWER Directive 9285.6-20, 4 pp, 2009

Adobe PDF LogoGuidelines for the OSRTI Review of Consideration Memos on Tier 1 Sediment Sites
USEPA Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation
OSWER Directive 9285.6-08 Attachment, 5 pp, 2004

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Other Related Documents or Web Sites | Sediment Cleanup Authorities

Other Related Documents or Web Sites

Adobe PDF LogoThe Clean Water Act and Sediment Remediation: Using the Data Quality Objectives Process to Help Assure That Remediated Sediment Sites Are Not Re-Contaminated
Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials (ASTSWMO), 23 pp, 2016

This paper suggests a planning method to help identify possible sources of pollutants that might prevent a site from reaching remedial cleanup levels or remedial action objectives, or that might recontaminate the site following a successful remedial action. Coordination between the Clean Water Act and CERCLA programs regarding single outfalls, storm water, combined sewer outfalls, and watershed management issues that affect a contaminated sediment site can yield more efficient, effective, and sustainable remedies.

Contaminated Sediments in Superfund
USEPA, Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation

Adobe PDF LogoContaminated Sediment Remediation Guidance for Hazardous Waste Sites
USEPA, Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation
EPA-540-R-05-012, 236 pp, 2005

This document provides an overview of the start to finish process of characterizing and remediating contaminated sediments. There are sections on the overall Superfund process, remedial investigation and feasibility study considerations, remediation technologies, and measuring the effectiveness and long-term monitoring of remedial actions.

Adobe PDF LogoContaminated Sediments Remediation: Remedy Selection for Contaminated Sediments
The Interstate Technology & Regulatory Council (ITRC) Contaminated Sediments Team.
CS-2, 514 pp, 2014

General categories of contaminated sediment remedial technologies covered in this document include monitored natural recovery and enhanced monitored natural recovery, in situ treatment, capping (conventional and amended), and removal (dredging and excavation). Additional factors to consider as part of the evaluation process are summarized (e.g., feasibility, cost, stakeholder and local governments concerns). This report is also available as a Web-based document.

Adobe PDF LogoFramework Guidance Manual for In Situ Wetland Restoration Demonstration
Ruiz, N., J. Bleiler, and K. Gardner.
ESTCP Project ER-200825, 83 pp, 2016

This manual is a guide to the use of in situ reactive amendment technologies for remediation of contaminated wetland hydric soils, providing a toolbox of methods with which to approach site characterization/monitoring, treatability testing and demonstration, and remedy implementation. This manual (1) provides collected literature sources for active in situ remedial projects; (2) outlines a conceptual approach to managing the remediation of wetland hydric soils; (3) offers suggestions for project objectives, metrics, and evaluation criteria; (4) discusses implementation means and methods; and (5) supports an assessment of technology cost. This guide is based upon a field demonstration conducted at Aberdeen Proving Ground to determine the most effective amendment to immobilize PCBs in wetland sediments. Additional information: ESTCP Cost & Performance ReportAdobe PDF Logo

Sediment Cleanup Users Manual II (SCUM II)
Asher, C., L. Inouye, T. Michelsen, R. McMillan, L. Read, D. Bradley, P. Kmet, P. Adolphson, and I. Anderson.
Washington State Department of Ecology, Pub. No. 12-09-057, 538 pp + 356 pp Appendix, 2015

This update replaces the 1991 manual and provides guidance to Washington Department of Ecology staff in implementing the cleanup decision process for contaminated sediments—i.e., how sites are identified, investigated, remediated, and monitored—in Washington State. See also Appendix B for selected papers on sediment sampling and testing from several decades of Sediment Management Annual Review meetings, and the Appendix K spreadsheets for calculating risk-based chemical concentrations for sediment and tissue.

Adobe PDF LogoEPA Can Better Implement Its Strategy for Managing Contaminated Sediments
USEPA, Office of Inspector General
Report No. 2006-P-00016, 44 pp, 2006

Adobe PDF LogoEPA's Contaminated Sediment Management Strategy
USEPA, Office of Water
EPA-823-R-98-001, 131 pp, 1998

Great Lakes National Program Office

Great Lakes Strategy 2002 - A Plan for the New Millennium
USEPA, Great Lakes National Program Office

This Web site discusses the Strategic Plan for the Great Lakes Ecosystem developed by the U.S. Policy Committee.

Adobe PDF LogoGuidance for Performing Tests on Dredged Material Proposed for Ocean Disposal
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District/U.S. EPA Region 2. 116 pp, 2016

This guide was prepared by EPA Region 2 in cooperation with the USACE New York District to provide guidance for applicants proposing to dredge and place dredged material at the Historic Area Remediation Site in the Atlantic Ocean. Under section 103 of the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act and section 404 of the Clean Water Act, the Corps and EPA issued national guidance and testing requirements (the Green Book and the Inland Testing Manual) to evaluate dredged material for open water disposal. This regional manual conveys instructions for implementing the broad technical guidance contained in the Green Book by providing regional specifications, such as the acceptable species for use in biological tests; the identification of contaminants of regional concern; Region-specific quality assurance requirements; and other methodologies that reflect the exposures and receptors that are appropriate for regional sediment assessments. Additional information: Other dredging guidance documents

Adobe PDF LogoGuide to the Assessment and Remediation of State-Managed Sediment Sites
Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials, 81 pp, 2007

This guide provides states and trust territories with an overview of the assessment and remediation of state-managed sediment sites. State RPMs can find the information and tools necessary to effectively assess and select an appropriate remedial action for smaller contaminated sediment sites for which they are responsible for cleanup and/or oversight. These sites are not necessarily addressed by the federal Superfund program.

Adobe PDF LogoIssuance of Final Guidance: Ecological Risk Assessment and Risk Management Principles for Superfund Sites
USEPA, Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation
OSWER Directive 9285.7-28 P, 9 pp, 1999

This guidance is intended to help Superfund risk managers make ecological risk-management decisions that are based on sound science, consistent across regions, and present a characterization of site risks that is transparent to the public. It provides risk managers with six principles to consider when making ecological risk-management decisions.

Adobe PDF LogoNorthwest Regional Sediment Evaluation Framework Interim Final
Multi-state and federal agency effort, 306 pp, 2006

This guidance presents a comprehensive evaluation framework for sampling, sediment testing, and test interpretation. For dredging projects, it provides the basis for evaluating the suitability of unconfined open water or other disposal options. For sediment cleanup projects, it supports the evaluation of the potential risk of in-place sediments and provides tools to evaluate the sediments based on potential cleanup options.

Adobe PDF LogoThe Processing and Beneficial Use of Fine-Grained Dredged Material: A Manual for Engineers
Maher, A., W.S. Douglas, F. Jafari, and J. Pecchioli.
New Jersey Department of Transportation, Trenton , NJ . 132 pp, 2013

This manual is designed to educate engineers and dredging professionals responsible for the placement and management of sediments removed from authorized navigation channels, berths, or marinas. Topics covered include the geochemical and geotechnical characteristics of dredged sediment specific to coastal and estuarine waterways of New Jersey and New York , placement and transportation methods, processing and stabilization systems, decontamination methods, and quality control-quality assurance protocols. Chapter 8 reviews several successful dredged material projects, including the Jersey Gardens Mall and Bayonne Golf Course.

Risk Management Strategy for PCB Contaminated Sediments
National Research Council, 452 pp, 2001

While this study concentrates on PCB contaminated sediments, the risk-management approaches examined and discussed are applicable to many other sediment sites. It encourages the comprehensive evaluation of all aspects of risk, including societal, cultural, and economic impacts as well as human health and ecological risks.

Adobe PDF LogoSediment Policy
Kansas Bureau of Environmental Remediation, 3 pp, 2004

Adobe PDF LogoTechnical Resource Document on Monitored Natural Recovery
U.S. EPA, National Risk Management Research Laboratory, Cincinnati, OH.
EPA 600-R-14-083, 251 pp, 2014

This technical resource document is designed to complement Chapter 4 on monitored natural recovery (MNR) in EPA's 2005 Contaminated Sediment Remediation Guidance for Hazardous Waste Sites by providing detailed information on field-scale methodologies and approaches that can be used to measure or predict natural processes that contribute to receptor risk reduction at contaminated sediment sites.

Sediment Cleanup Authorities

Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA)
CERCLA is the basis for federal involvement in contaminated sites that are not covered by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The program has a removal component and a more long-term remedial component. Actions under both components are governed by the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan (NCP). Sediment contamination is generally addressed under the remedial response provisions of CERCLA, although it can be addressed under removal authorities (e.g., Eastern Woolen Mills).

Potential Applicable or Relevant and Appropriate Requirements (ARARs) or "To Be Considered" Under CERCLA

This section provides a sampling of the federal authorities that may have some bearing on a CERCLA-based sediment cleanup. Many states have equivalent or additional evaluation requirements.

Clean Water Act (CWA)
The CWA governs the disposal of dredged materials into the navigable waters of the United States. Under Section 404, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) issues permits for disposal that are subject to review and approval by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Section 401 provides for state review of the permits. These permits are generally related to channel or harbor maintenance and do not apply to sediments that have been contaminated by a non-regulated release of hazardous wastes.

Under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), the CWA (Section 402) provides for permitting point-source wastewater discharges to prevent the contamination of surface waters and their sediments from industrial and commercial effluents. Contaminated sediment treatment and/or disposal may require dewatering the sediments. If this water is to be returned to the surface water body, it generally requires treatment to meet the NPDES criteria.

Under CWA Section 303, EPA and authorized states may set water quality criteria for specific watersheds or water bodies. These standards are either ARARs or "to be considered" for a Superfund cleanup action. If the surface water body is gaining, contaminated sediments can be a source contributing to the degradation of water quality. A fuller discussion of sediments and water quality criteria is available through EPA's web site.

Endangered Species Act
In general, the Endangered Species Act requires a determination as to whether any such species (and its related habitat) reside within the area where an activity under review by a governmental authority may take place. If the species is present and may be adversely affected by the selected activity and the adverse effect cannot be prevented, the selected action may proceed. This law may constitute an action-specific ARAR at some sediment sites.

Executive Order 11988 (Floodplain Development)
Executive Order 11988 spells out actions that federal agencies must take to avoid, to the extent possible, the long- and short-term adverse impacts associated with the occupancy and modification of floodplains and to avoid direct or indirect support of floodplain development whenever a practicable alternative exists. The requirements of this order may be applicable or relevant and appropriate to remedies on some sediment sites.

Executive Order 11990 (Protection of Wetlands)
Executive Order 11990 addresses actions that federal agencies must take to avoid, to the extent possible, the long-and short-term adverse impacts associated with the destruction or modification of wetlands and to avoid direct or indirect support of new construction in wetlands whenever a practicable alternative exists. The requirements of this order may be applicable or relevant and appropriate to remedies on some sediment sites.

Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act (FWCA)
The FWCA requires that federally funded or authorized projects ensure that any modification of any stream or other water body affected by a funded or authorized action provide for adequate protection of fish and wildlife resources. The requirements of this act are generally applicable or relevant and appropriate to remedies of sediment sites.

Great Lakes Water Quality Initiative, Part 132, Appendix E
The Great Lakes Water Quality Initiative sets forth guidance to the states bordering the Great Lakes regarding their wastewater discharge programs. The guidance states that any remedial action involving discharges should, in general, minimize any lowering of water quality to the extent practicable. This guidance may fall in the category "to be considered" at some sediment sites.

Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA)
MPRSA, also known as the Ocean Dumping Act, prohibits ocean dumping of material that would unreasonably degrade or endanger human health or the marine environment. Ocean dumping cannot occur unless a permit is issued under MPRSA. In the case of dredged material, the decision to issue a permit is made by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, using EPA's environmental criteria and subject to EPA's concurrence.

Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)
Under the SDWA, EPA identifies chemicals that are hazardous and could enter the nation's drinking water. The Agency has set maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for these chemicals. Aquifer cleanups under CERCLA are required to meet MCLs unless the controlling regulatory agency determines that it is technically impracticable to do so. If the surface water body is losing, then surface water moving through contaminated sediments may carry contaminants down to the groundwater in concentrations that exceed MCLs.

Under the Underground Injection Control (UIC) Program, the SDWA and state equivalents control the injection of liquids into the ground that could affect water quality. Some in situ sediment-related treatment and characterization technologies may fall under UIC jurisdiction.

Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)
TSCA governs, among other things, the cleanup and disposal of PCBs. For example dredged PCB contaminated sediments would have to be handled and disposed of in accordance with 40 CFR Part 761Adobe PDF Logo.

Clean Water Act (CWA)
Section 311 of the CWA provides for government response to the release of oil or hazardous substances into the navigable waters of the United States. It requires the development of a National Contingency Plan (311(d)) that spells out the responsibilities and actions to be taken following a release into navigable waters. The Coast Guard is responsible for coastal waters, the Great Lakes, and certain designated ports and harbors in inland water bodies, while EPA is responsible for lesser water bodies. Cleanup of sediments may occur under Section 311 (e.g., crude oil release affecting tidal flats), but in general, these are emergency responses and do not entail long-term remediation.

Great Lakes Legacy Act
Discharges of toxic substances into the Great Lakes Basin have been reduced in the last 20 years, but persistent, high concentrations of contaminants remain in the bottom sediments of some of the rivers and harbors that feed into the Lakes. These problem harbor and tributary areas in the Great Lakes basin have been identified and labeled as "areas of concern" (AOCs) with 31 of the 43 AOCs located on the U.S. side of the Great Lakes.

To tackle this contamination problem and take a key step toward the recovery of these 31 sites, the Great Lakes Legacy Act (the Legacy Act) was signed into law in 2002. The Act provides funding to take the necessary steps to clean up contaminated sediment in "Areas of Concern located wholly or partially in the United States," including specific funding designated for public outreach and research components. The USEPA's Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO) was designated to implement the Legacy Act.

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)
RCRA and the state equivalents cover the treatment, storage, and disposal of listed hazardous wastes (F Adobe PDF Logo and K Adobe PDF Logo codes), toxicity characteristic wastes (D codes Adobe PDF Logo), and the disposal of commercial chemicals (U and P codes). It also covers the disposal of cleanup debris and investigation-derived wastes (D codes) associated with CERCLA remedial or removal actions and RCRA corrective measures. Any sediments removed from the floor of a water body that contain constituents or have characteristics covered by RCRA may have to meet RCRA treatment and disposal requirements. Also, if the remedy calls for the construction of a landfill for disposal purposes, it will likely have to meet RCRA construction standards, including those of 40 CFR 264.18(b)—location of units in floodplains.

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