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


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

Sediments

Site Characterization

Usually the first step to characterizing sediment involves reviewing historical data and, if necessary, developing a sampling and analysis plan to determine the nature of the contamination. The objective of this first step, which is often referred to as the preliminary site investigation (PSI), is to determine if chemical contamination of the sediment exists. Much of the analytical testing can be done on site using bioassay, X-Ray florescence, and field gas chromatography.

If the PSI results indicate potentially unacceptable concentrations of contaminants, then a more detailed site investigation (DSI) occurs. The DSI should evaluate the effects of the contaminants on sediment flora and fauna and their potential effects on other wildlife and humans. The five types of ecosystem biological assessments that are commonly conducted at sites with contaminated sediments are toxicity testing, benthic invertebrate community assessments, bioaccumulation testing, fish health, and fish community structure (USEPA 2002). The DSI also should determine the hydrodynamics of the sediment system to support remedial decisions. Evaluation of the contaminant generally addresses the following questions (NAVFAC (2003)):

  • What is the total organic content (TOC) and ratio of acid-volatile sulfide (AVS) to simultaneously extractable metals (SEM)?
  • What is the flux of chemicals of potential concern (COPCs) from the sediment bed into the overlying water column?
  • Are surface sediments oxic (oxygen rich) or anoxic (oxygen depleted), and how does the redox potential change with depth?
  • Are the concentrations of ammonia and sulfide in porewater and/or overlying water high enough to be confounding factors in toxicity tests?
  • What chemical and biological processes might be degrading or transforming COPCs, and are these processes significant?

Sediment system and hydrodynamic evaluations generally address the following questions:

  • What is the distribution of sediment grain size (i.e., sediment type) at the site, and what are the associated depositional environments?
  • Under what conditions are the surface sediments likely to be eroded and resuspended (i.e., how stable is the sediment bed)?
  • If sediments are resuspended, where are they being transported?
  • Is natural burial occurring through sediment accumulation, and if so, at what rate?
  • How thick is the mixed surface layer of sediment?
  • What types of extreme events might occur at this site, and what are the potential effects?

The following factors are generally determined to aid in evaluating remedial technologies:

  • Hazardous waste characterization (e.g., Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure [TCLP] analysis) to support the evaluation of treatment and disposal options.
  • Dewatering characteristics to identify the most appropriate pretreatment methods.
  • Engineering properties (e.g., strength, compressibility) to evaluate capping and reuse options.

Chapter 2 of USEPA (2005) contains a detailed discussion of remedy investigation considerations. The following Table presents an example of data that may need to be collected during a sediment investigation.

Example Site Characterization Data for Sediment Sites
Physical Chemical Biological
  • Sediment particle size/distribution and mineralogy in cores

  • In Situ porosity/bulk density

  • Bearing strength

  • Specific gravity

  • Salinity profile of sediment cores

  • Geometry/bathymetry of water body

  • Turbidity

  • Temperature

  • Sediment resuspension and deposition rates

  • Depth of mixing layer/ degree and depth of bioturbation

  • Geophysical survey results

  • Flood frequencies, annual and event driven hydrographs and current velocities

  • Tidal regime

  • Groundwater flow regime and surface water/groundwater interaction

  • Ice cover and breakup patterns

  • Water uses causing physical disturbance of sediment

  • Near surface contaminant concentration in sediment

  • Contaminant profiles in sediment cores

  • Contaminant concentrations (especially metals) in biota tissue, groundwater, and pore water

  • Total Organic carbon in sediment

  • Dissolved, suspended, and colloidal contaminant concentrations in surface water

  • Simultaneously extracted metals (SEM) and acid volatile sulfide (AVS) in sediment

  • Radiometric dating profiles in sediment cores

  • Non-contaminant chemical species that may affect contaminant mobility

  • Oxidation-reduction profile of sediment cores

  • pH profile in sediment cores

  • Carbon/nitrogen/phosphorus ratio

  • Non-ionized ammonia concentration in sediment

  • Sediment toxicity<

    /li>
  • Extent of recreational/ commercial harvestingof fish/shellfish for human consumption

  • Extent of predators dependent on aquatic food chain (e.g., mink, otter, kingfisher, heron)

  • Abundance /diversity of emergent and submerged vegetation

  • Abundance /diversity of bottom-dwelling species and fishes

  • Habitat stressor analyses

  • Contaminant bioavailability

  • Pathological condition, such as presence of tumors in fish

  • Presence of indicator species

(USEPA 2005)

This section on characterization is by no means comprehensive and the references provided below should be consulted for more detailed explanations.


Adobe PDF LogoNAVFAC 2003. Final Implementation Guide for Assessing and Managing Contaminated Sediment at Navy Facilities

Adobe PDF LogoUSEPA 2002. A Guidance Manual to Support the Assessment of Contaminated Sediments in Freshwater Ecosystems Volume II � Design and Implementation of Sediment Quality Investigations

Adobe PDF LogoContaminated Sediment Remediation Guidance for Hazardous Waste Sites, USEPA, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, EPA-540/R-05/012, 236 pp, 2005


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General Documents | Bioaccumulation | Case Studies | Other Resources

General Documents

This section contains documents that broadly address characterization issues. Narrowly focused documents, such as sampling techniques and analytical methods, are identified in separate sections.

Adobe PDF LogoContaminated Sediment Remediation Guidance for Hazardous Waste Sites
USEPA, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, EPA-540/R-05/012, 236 pp, 2005

Adobe PDF LogoCritical Issues for Contaminated Sediment Management
Apitz, Sabine E., et al.
US Navy, Marine Environmental Support Office, MESO-02-TM-01, 88 pp, 2002

This document identifies problems, remediation approaches, technology gaps, and other issues relevant to managing contaminated sediments in an integrated, cost-effective way. It examines the successful aspects of contaminated sediment assessment and management, and the barriers to streamlining contaminated sediment management.

Adobe PDF LogoDemonstration and Evaluation of Solid Phase Microextraction for the Assessment of Bioavailability and Contaminant Mobility
Reible, D. and G. Lotufo.
ESTCP Project ER-200624, 140 pp, 2012

Project ER-200624 developed and standardized a procedure using field-deployable SPME for the in situ measurement of freely dissolved porewater concentrations of hydrophobic organics in sediments and also demonstrated the relationship of these measurements to contaminant flux, bioavailability, and bioaccumulation. ESTCP Cost and Performance ReportAdobe PDF Logo

Adobe PDF LogoDemonstration of an In-Situ Friction-Sound Probe for Mapping Particle Size at Contaminated Sediment Sites
Chadwick, D.B. and E. Arias.
ESTCP Project ER-200919, SPAWAR Technical Report 2040, 77 pp, 2014

Knowledge of grain size at sediment study sites can provide lines of evidence that can be applied to identify potential areas of contaminated sediment and contaminant discharge zones. The effectiveness of the sediment friction-sound probe (SED-FSP) technology was evaluated in the field for direct in situ measurement of grain size at (1) a groundwater-surface water interaction site, (2) a contaminated sediment site, and (3) a contaminated sediment, thin-layer containment cap to demonstrate the technology's vertical profiling capabilities. Additional information: ESTCP Cost and Performance ReportAdobe PDF Logo

The Effect of Activated Carbon on Partitioning, Desorption, and Biouptake of Native Polychlorinated Biphenyls in Four Freshwater Sediments
Sun, X. and U. Ghosh
Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. Volume 27, Number 11. pp 2287-2295, 2008

Great Lakes Dredged Material Testing & Evaluation Manual
USEPA and USACE

This regional testing manual is for use in evaluating potential impacts of contaminants from dredged material proposed for discharge to the Great Lakes, connecting channels, and tributaries. The manual is intended to be used as a decision-making tool for dredge and fill permits issued by the US Army Corps of Engineers, states, or tribes where delegated, under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

Adobe PDF LogoIntegration of Multi-Tension Permeametry and Photogrammetric Textural Segmentation for Estimating Directional Permeability
A. Ward, G. Seedahmend, G. Anderson, and F. Zhang.
Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) Project ER-1366, 84 pp, 2010

A rapid, robust, and reliable tool for in situ measurement of hydraulic properties in heterogeneous, anisotropic, variably saturated porous media is based on direct-push, in situ sensors deployed individually or as part of an integrated tool. The sensors include 1) a tension (subatmospheric pressure) permeameter for measuring variably relative permeability as a function of saturation, and 2) a microscopic imaging system for in situ imaging of sediments from which grain-size characteristics and independent estimates of hydraulic properties are derived using digital photogrammetry. An existing SCAPS/GeoVIS system was modified to function as a dual field-of-view video camera system for sub-surface soil imaging, one for capturing grain size data in silt and the other in the sand-sized fraction. Digital images of sediments were converted into particle size distributions and their moments using the Pixel-Vernier, a suite of photogrammetric algorithms that combine markers-controlled watershed algorithm with a minimum-distance clustering to solve the segmentation problem. The segmentation algorithm decomposes the image into separate particle regions, which are used to derive several geometric attributes for each particle. These were used to estimate the particle size distribution and their relevant statistics. Particle size distributions were then used with a packing model to estimate porosity and saturated hydraulic conductivity.

Adobe PDF LogoLaboratory, Field, and Analytical Procedures for Using Passive Sampling in the Evaluation of Contaminated Sediments: User's Manual
Burgess, R.M., S.B.K. Driscoll, G.A. Burton, U. Ghosh, P.M. Gschwend, D. Reible, S. Ahn, and T. Thompson. EPA 600-R-16-357, ESTCP Project ER-201216, 167 pp, 2017

U.S. EPA and SERDP/ESTCP produced this document as a guide for using passive sampling to evaluate contaminated sediments. The guide is intended to cover lab, field, and analytical aspects of passive sampler applications. This resource will aid in developing user-specific lab, field, and analytical procedures and complement existing sediment assessment tools.

Adobe PDF LogoQuantifying Seepage Flux using Sediment Temperatures
Lien, B.K. and R.G. Ford.
EPA 600-R-15-454, 50 pp, 2014

This report demonstrates different modeling approaches that use sediment temperatures to estimate the magnitude and direction of water flux across the groundwater-surface water transition zone. Following a review of analytical models based on steady-state or transient temperature solutions, case study applications of these modeling approaches are illustrated for two different field settings. For a quiescent system, application of two different steady-state models to evaluate temperature records from three depths is discussed for estimating groundwater seepage into a pond. For a flowing water system, application of two different transient models is used to estimate water exchange across a granular cap placed atop sediments in a small river.

Adobe PDF LogoRapid Sediment Characterization Tools
V.J. Kirtay.
Naval Facilities Engineering Service Center Technical Report 1970, 45 pp, 2008

This guide provides information with recommendations for rapid sediment characterization technologies that can be used at marine sediment sites, including X-ray fluorescence for metals, immunoassays for PAHs and PCBs, QwikSed bioassay for assessing toxicity, and other more specialized techniques. The report provides examples to illustrate the efficacy of applying rapid sediment characterization tools for RI/FS applications, total maximum daily load studies, and forensic studies.

A Guidance Manual to Support the Assessment of Contaminated Sediments in Freshwater Ecosystems (USEPA Three Volumes)

Adobe PDF LogoVolume I - An Ecosystem-Based Framework for Assessing and Managing Contaminated Sediments
MacDonald, D.D. and C.G. Ingersoll USEPA, Great Lakes National Program Office, EPA-905-B02-001, 149 pp, 2002

This guidance recommends a five-step process to support the assessment and management of sediment quality conditions relative to sediment-dwelling organisms, aquatic-dependent wildlife, and human health.

Adobe PDF LogoVolume II - Design and Implementation of Sediment Quality Investigations
MacDonald, D.D. and C.G. Ingersoll
USEPA, Great Lakes National Program Office, EPA-905-B02-001 B, 136 pp, 2002

Adobe PDF LogoVolume III - Interpretation of the Results of Sediment Quality Investigations
MacDonald, D.D. and C.G. Ingersoll
USEPA, Great Lakes National Program Office, EPA-905-B02-001 C, 232 pp, 2002

A Guidance Manual to Support the Assessment of Contaminated Sediments in Freshwater, Estuarine, and Marine Ecosystems in British Columbia (Four Volumes)

Adobe PDF LogoVolume I - An Ecosystem-Based Framework for Assessing and Managing Contaminated Sediments
MacDonald, D.D. and C.G. Ingersoll
British Columbia Ministry of Water, Land, and Air Protection, 150 pp, 2003

Adobe PDF LogoVolume II - Design and Implementation of Sediment Quality Investigations in Freshwater Ecosystems
MacDonald, D.D. and C.G. Ingersoll
British Columbia Ministry of Water, Land, and Air Protection, 112 pp, 2003

Adobe PDF LogoVolume III - Interpretation of the Results of Sediment Quality Investigations
MacDonald, D.D. and C.G. Ingersoll
British Columbia Ministry of Water, Land, and Air Protection, 233 pp, 2003

Adobe PDF LogoVolume IV - Supplemental Guidance on the Design and Implementation of Detailed Site Investigations in Marine and Estuarine Ecosystems
MacDonald, D.D. and C.G. Ingersoll
British Columbia Ministry of Water, Land, and Air Protection, 86 pp, 2003

Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Documents

Adobe PDF LogoGuidance for Environmental Background Analysis Volume II: Sediment
NAVFAC, UG-2054-ENV, 243 pp, 2003

This volume focuses on analytical methods and procedures that can be used to identify background chemicals in sediment medium (whether from anthropogenic or natural sources) and estimate the chemical concentration ranges that represent site-specific background conditions.

Adobe PDF LogoGuide for Planning and Conducting Sediment Pore Water Toxicity Identification Evaluations (TIE) to Determine Causes of Acute Toxicity at Navy Aquatic Sites
NAVFAC, User's Guide UG-2052-ENV, 150 pp, 2003

This guide provides a general but comprehensive approach for planning and conducting TIEs, along with examples to illustrate many of the features of successful TIE studies.

Adobe PDF LogoA Handbook for Determining the Sources of PCB Contamination in Sediments
NAVFAC Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center.
TR-NAVFAC EXWC-EV-1302, 164 pp, 2012

This guide to conducting environmental forensic investigations for PCBs at sediment sites covers the following topics: (1) the general forensic approach, including relevant background information; (2) technical methods used in a PCB environmental forensics investigation; and (3) application of the procedures in two demonstration case studies.

Adobe PDF LogoImplementation Guide for Assessing and Managing Contaminated Sediment at Navy Facilities
NAVFAC, SPAWAR Systems Center, NFESC User's Guide UG-2053-ENV, 153 pp, 2003

This guide identifies and discusses sediment-specific issues related to site characterization, risk assessment, and remedial alternative evaluation, and directs the reader to related Web sites and resources for more detailed technical information. It includes a list of commonly used toxicity tests for sediments.

Adobe PDF LogoIntegrated Forensics Approach to Fingerprint PCB Sources in Sediments using Rapid Sediment Characterization (RSC) and Advanced Chemical Fingerprinting (ACF)
Leather, J., G. Durell, G. Johnson, and M. Mills.
ESTCP Project ER-200826, SPAWAR Technical Document 3262, 228 pp, 2012

An integrated approach to fingerprinting PCB contamination combines sediment screening technologies on a large number of field samples followed by detailed PCB congener analysis in conjunction with advanced chemical fingerprinting data interpretation on a subset of selected laboratory samples. All the techniques discussed in this report are commercially available from multiple sources. See also the ESTCP Cost and Performance Report Adobe PDF Logo; PAH/PCB Fingerprinting Tool

Adobe PDF LogoUser's Guide for Assessing Sediment Transport at Navy Facilities
Blake, A.C., D.B. Chadwick, P.J. White, and C.A. Jones.
NAVFAC, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, Technical Report 1960, 165 pp, 2007

This document provides Navy remedial project managers and their technical support staff with practical guidance on planning and conducting sediment transport evaluations. It identifies and reviews the methods and tools that can be used to characterize sediment transport, and it includes a framework to clearly identify the types of measurements and data analysis methods that can be used at a contaminated sediment site. It also provides guidance on how to use the results of a well-designed sediment transport evaluation to make management decisions for contaminated sediment sites.

Adobe PDF LogoA User's Guide for Determining the Sources of Contaminants in Sediments
Stout, S.A., J.M. Leather, and W.E. Corl III
NAVFAC, SPAWAR Systems Center, Technical Report 1907, 96 pp, 2003

This document provides a step-by-step description of the investigative process of determining contaminant sources for use when considering or designing a study. It also contains a demonstration study aimed at determining the source of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in sediments of the southern branch of the Elizabeth River near the Norfolk Naval Shipyard.

Adobe PDF LogoOne-Dimensional Hydrodynamic/Sediment Transport Model for Stream Networks
Hayter, E.J., J.M. Hamrick, B.R. Bicknell, and M.H. Gray
USEPA, EPA/600/R-01/072, 38 pp, 2001

This document contains a short discussion on the data needed to model sediment transport.

Adobe PDF LogoUsing the Sediment Quality Triad to Characterize Toxic Conditions in the Chesapeake Bay (2002): An Assessment of Tidal River Segments in the Bohemia, Elk, Northeast, and Severn Rivers
Pinkney, A.E., et al.
USEPA, Chesapeake Bay Program Office, CBFO-C05-01, 234 pp, 2005

An example is provided on the use of the sediment quality triad (sediment chemistry, sediment toxicity, and benthic community structure) to evaluate the quality of sediment in tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay.

State Documents

Adobe PDF LogoSediment Sampling and Analysis Plan Appendix: Guidance on the Development of Sediment Sampling and Analysis Plans Meeting the Requirements of the Sediment Management Standards (Chapter 173-204 WAC)
Washington Department of Ecology, Toxics Cleanup Program, Ecology Publication No. 03-09-043, 152 pp, 2008

This document provides technical guidance for developing sampling and analysis plans for sediment investigations.

Adobe PDF LogoA Standard Operating Procedures Manual for the Louisiana Department of Natural Resource's Coastal Restoration Division: Methods for Data Collection, Quality Assurance / Quality Control, Storage, and Products
Folse, T.M. and J.L. West.
Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, 158 pp, 2004.

Bioaccumulation

Adobe PDF LogoAnalysis of Uncertainty in Estimating Dioxin Bioaccumulation Potential in Sediment-Exposed Benthos
USACE, Engineer Research and Development Center, TN-DOER-R5, 18 pp, 2004

Adobe PDF LogoAnalysis of Uncertainty in TBP Estimation of PAH Bioaccumulation Potential in Sediments
USACE, Dredging Research Technical Note EEDP-04-32, 14 pp, 1999.

Case Studies

The US Geological Survey has performed many sediment studies in different parts of the country. The Sediment Toxicology section in Other Resources provides a number of links to these studies. The case studies listed below provide examples of how different types of sites are characterized:

Adobe PDF LogoAnalysis of Organic Contaminants in Dredged Material Using a Field-Portable GC-MS
Bednar, A.J, R.A. Kirgan, J.M. Corbino, and A.L. Russell.
Technical Note ERDC TN-DOER-E26, 9 pp, Sep 2009

This technical note describes the use of a Griffin 400 field-portable gas chromatography ion trap mass spectrometer (GC-MS) for the in-field determination of organic contaminants in dredged material at a site on the Mississippi River. The instrument was used for quantitative analysis of organic compounds, including PAHs.

Adobe PDF LogoAssessment of Elemental Concentrations in Streams of the New Lead Belt in Southeastern Missouri, 2002-05
Brumbaugh, W.G., T.W. May, J.M. Besser, A.L. Allert, and C.J. Schmitt
USGS, Scientific Investigations Report 2007-5057, 68 pp, 2007

Adobe PDF LogoMagnitude and Extent of Contaminated Sediment and Toxicity in Chesapeake Bay
Hartwell, S.I. and J. Hameedi
NOAA, Technical Memorandum NCCOS 47, 241 pp, 2007

Adobe PDF LogoMetals Transport in the Sacramento River, California 1996-1997 Volume 1: Methods and Data
Alpers, C.N., H. Taylor, and J. Domagalski (eds.)
USGS, Water Resources Investigation Report 99-4286, 451 pp, 2000

Adobe PDF LogoPathway Ranking for In-Place Sediment Management Executive Summary
DoD, Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program, Report CU1209, 1,053 pp, 2006

The objective of this study was to provide an understanding of the relative importance of critical contaminant transport pathways in the risk, fate, and management of near-shore, in-place contaminated (PAHs and metals) sediments via an: 1) integrated suite of measurement techniques to characterize and quantify important transport pathways for in-place sediments, 2) corresponding set of indices that quantify the transport phenomenon on a common dimensional scale; and 3) field-scale evaluation of the effectiveness of the measurement tools and the importance of quantified transport pathways. This report concerns activities at Paleta Creek, San Diego Bay.

Adobe PDF LogoPathway Ranking for In-Place Sediment Management, Final Site II Report - Pearl Harbor
DoD, Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program, Report CU1209, 857 pp, 2006

The objective of this study was to provide an understanding of the relative importance of critical contaminant transport pathways in the risk, fate, and management of near-shore, in-place contaminated (PAHs and metals) sediments via an: 1) integrated suite of measurement techniques to characterize and quantify important transport pathways for in-place sediments, 2) corresponding set of indices that quantify the transport phenomenon on a common dimensional scale; and 3) field-scale evaluation of the effectiveness of the measurement tools and the importance of quantified transport pathways.

Adobe PDF LogoPathway Ranking for In-Place Sediment Management Volume III: Cross-Site Comparisons
DoD, Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program, Report CU1209, 78 pp, 2006

This final volume summarizes and compares the main results of the field efforts at Pearl Harbor and Paleta Creek, and critically analyzes their implications for pathway analysis and ranking as a future tool in contaminated sediment management.

Sedimentation and Occurrence and Trends of Selected Chemical Constituents in Bottom Sediment, Empire Lake, Cherokee County, Kansas, 1905?2005
Juracek, K.E.
USGS, Scientific Investigations Report 2006-5307, 88 pp, 2006

Adobe PDF LogoSheboygan River Food Chain and Sediment Contaminant Assessment
Burzynski, M.
USEPA, Great Lakes National Program Office, 61 pp, 2000

Other Resources

Measurement and Monitoring Technologies for the 21st Century
USEPA Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation

This searchable database, which contains over 6,900 abstracts and is updated quarterly, incorporates citations and descriptions from literature related to identified OSWER needs areas and includes commercially available monitoring and measurement material, plus government-sponsored small business research projects (SBIR) and other awards. Innovative sampling and analysis techniques for contaminated sediments is an identified OSWER need area. To search the database, use Select a Needs Area to select Sampling and Analytical Technologies for Potentially Contaminated Sediment. Then click on Submit Query. The database also can be searched with keywords.

Adobe PDF LogoValidating Pathway Analysis of Organic Contaminants from Aged Dredged Material Using Plants and Worms
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, ERDC TN-DOER-R3, 19 pp, 2004



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