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«This page left intentionally blank. United States Environmental Protection Agency EPA-540-R-05-012 Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response OSWER ...»

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Although some metals do accumulate in biota (i.e., bioaccumulate), generally they do not significantly increase in concentration as they are passed up the food chain (i.e., biomagnify). Others, called persistent bioaccumulative toxics (PBTs) [e.g., polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), pesticides, and methyl mercury] are of concern primarily because they may both bioaccumulate and biomagnify. Concentrations of PBTs in fish may endanger humans and wildlife that eat fish. Women of childbearing age, young children, people who derive much of their diet from fish and shellfish, and people with impaired immune systems may be especially at risk.

In 2004, the EPA released The Updated Report on the Incidence and Severity of Sediment Contamination in Surface Waters of the United States (U.S. EPA 2004a). This report identifies locations in all regions of the country where sediment contamination could be associated with probable or possible adverse effects to aquatic life and/or human health. In 2004, state and local authorities issued 3,221 advisories limiting fish consumption, which cover 35 percent of the nation’s total lake acreage (excluding the Great Lakes), 24 percent of the nation’s total river miles, and 100 percent of the Great Lakes and connecting waters, in part due to sediment contamination (U.S. EPA 2005a). In addition, contaminated sediment can significantly impair the navigational and recreational uses of rivers and harbors in the U.S.

Navigational dredging is not currently being performed in many harbors and waterways because of the concern for impacts of dredging on water quality, liability to those performing the dredging, and disposal options for the contaminated dredged material [National Research Council (NRC 1997 and 2001)].

As of 2004, the Superfund program had decided to take an action to address sediment at approximately 140 sites, including federal facilities. The remedies for more than 60 sites, called “Tier 1” sites, are large enough that they are being tracked at the national level [for more information view the Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation’s (OSRTI’s) Contaminated Sediments in Superfund Web site at http://www.epa.gov/superfund/resources/sediment/sites.htm]. These sites include a wide variety of contaminants, as presented in Highlight 1-2.

Many aspects of the cleanup process may be more complex at sediment sites versus sites with soil or ground water contamination alone. Some potentially complicating factors for addressing contaminated sediment sites are listed in Highlight 1-3. Based on these factors and other reasons as presented in this guidance, a team of experts is frequently needed to advise the project manager (see Section 1.4.2 Technical Team Approach).

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1-4 Chapter 1: Introduction


Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER) Directive 9285.6-08, Principles for Managing Contaminated Sediment Risks at Hazardous Waste Sites (U.S. EPA 2002a; attached as Appendix A to this document), presents eleven risk management principles that help project managers make scientifically sound and nationally consistent risk management decisions at contaminated sediment sites. Project managers should carefully consider these principles when planning and conducting site investigations, involving the affected parties, and selecting and implementing a response.

The eleven risk management principles should be applied within the framework of the EPA’s existing statutory and regulatory requirements, such as the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan’s (NCP’s) nine remedy selection criteria (Title 40 Code of Federal Regulations (40 CFR) §300.430(c)). The eleven principles are listed in Highlight 1-4 and are incorporated throughout this guidance. The project manager should refer to OSWER Directive 9285.6-11, OSRTI Sediment Team and the NRRB [National Remedy Review Board] Coordination at Large Sediment Sites (U.S. EPA 2004b) to help ensure that the eleven principles are appropriately considered before making site-specific risk management decisions. Copies of both directives can be found on EPA’s Superfund Web site at http://www.epa.gov/superfund/resources/sediment/ documents.htm.

Highlight 1-4: Risk Management Principles Recommended for Contaminated Sediment Sites

1. Control sources early

2. Involve the community early and often

3. Coordinate with states, local governments, Indian tribes, and natural resource trustees

4. Develop and refine a conceptual site model that considers sediment stability

5. Use an iterative approach in a risk-based framework

6. Carefully evaluate the assumptions and uncertainties associated with site characterization data and site models

7. Select site-specific, project-specific, and sediment-specific risk management approaches that will achieve risk-based goals

8. Ensure that sediment cleanup levels are clearly tied to risk management goals

9. Maximize the effectiveness of institutional controls and recognize their limitations

10. Design remedies to minimize short-term risks while achieving long-term protection

11. Monitor during and after sediment remediation to assess and document remedy effectiveness Source: U.S. EPA 2002a; see Appendix A

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1.3.1 Remedial Approaches Highlight 1-5 lists the major remedial approaches or alternatives available for managing risks from contaminated sediment. Frequently, a final sediment remedy combines more than one type of approach.

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• Additives/enhanced biodegradation 1-6 Chapter 1: Introduction 1.3.2 Urban Revitalization and Reuse Revitalizing urban areas and returning land and water bodies to productive uses have become increasingly important to the EPA’s hazardous waste programs in recent years. Sediment sites may present opportunities to incorporate these concepts into remedy selection, remedial design, and into other phases of the risk management process. At sediment sites in urban areas, project managers should consider the goals of local governments and other entities to revitalize the use of waterfront property, harbors, and water bodies. This may involve reviewing local land use plans and identifying potential partners such as land owners, elected officials, and local land and water planning and development agencies. It may lead to opportunities to consider remedies that take into account the views of local stakeholders, land owners, and land use planners. For example, it may be possible to locate disposal structures or rail lines in areas that maximize future reuse. Beneficial reuse of dredged material may also present an opportunity for urban revitalization. Project managers are encouraged to make use of a collaborative Web site on beneficial reuse co-sponsored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Engineer Research and Development Center and EPA’s Office of Wetlands, Oceans, & Watersheds, available at http://el.erdc.usace.army.mil/dots/budm/budm.html.


Decision making at sediment sites can follow somewhat different processes depending on the legal authority under which the sediment cleanup is conducted, the entity conducting the cleanup, and the scope of the problem. While meeting all legal and regulatory requirements, it is the intent of the Agency to allow project managers the flexibility needed to make the most appropriate recommendation for their site.

1.4.1 Decision Process Framework

Remedial actions taken under CERCLA generally follow the Superfund remedial response process shown in Highlight 1-6, taken from A Guide to Preparing Superfund Proposed Plans, Records of Decision, and Other Remedy Selection Decision Documents (U.S. EPA 1999a, also referred to as the “ROD Guidance”). Project managers should refer to the ROD Guidance for descriptions of each stage of the remedial process. Corrective actions under RCRA generally follow the RCRA remedial process laid out in the May 1, 1996 Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking [(ANPR), 61 Federal Register (FR) 19447].

In the report, A Risk-Management Strategy for PCB-Contaminated Sediments (NRC 2001), the NRC recommended the use of the iterative decision-making approach, adapted from the 1997 Presidential/Congressional Commission on Risk Assessment and Risk Management (PCCRARM) risk management framework (Highlight 1-7). EPA project managers should consider using this approach within the context of EPA’s existing remedial process. The NRC approach emphasizes the unique importance of community involvement throughout the decision-making process and the usefulness of iteration and adaptation if new information becomes available that changes the nature or understanding of the problem.

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Adapted from: U.S. EPA 1999a Chapter 1: Introduction Highlight 1-7: National Research Council - Recommended Framework for Risk Management

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Source: NRC 2001 1.4.2 Technical Team Approach At many sediment sites, like other complex sites, a technical team approach frequently works best for effective site management. This team may be made up of lead and support regulatory agency technical personnel and experts from within and outside of the agencies, including those representing responsible parties. Typically, it is most effective to form this group early in the site investigation process and maintain it with as much continuity as possible throughout the decision making and implementation of the project. Ongoing dialogue managed by the project manager among the technical team on all of the technical issues should help to ensure a productive, efficient site investigation and evaluation of remedial alternatives in which the tendency toward an adversarial environment is minimized. This approach may require a strong project manager who facilitates the meetings and makes tough and fair decisions at points of disagreement.

Technical teams, which include experts representing both government and responsible parties,

can be especially effective when the following principles are considered:

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1.4.3 Technical Support In 2004, EPA established the Superfund Sediment Resource Center (SSRC) to make expert technical assistance available to EPA project managers of any Superfund sediment site. The SSRC has the capability of accessing expertise from the EPA’s Office of Research and Development, the USACE, as well as private consultants and academic researchers. Information on how to access the SSRC is available through OSRTI’s Contaminated Sediments in Superfund Web site at http://www.epa.gov/ superfund/resources/sediment/ssrc.htm.

In 2002, EPA established the Contaminated Sediments Technical Advisory Group (CSTAG) to monitor the progress of, and provide advice regarding, a number of large, complex, or controversial contaminated sediment Superfund sites. For most sites, the group meets with the site team several times throughout the site investigation, response selection, and action implementation processes. Involving CSTAG at each major phase of a project provides additional technical support to the project team and ensures consistency with EPA’s national sediment policies. General information about CSTAG and sitespecific recommendations and responses are available through OSRTI’s Contaminated Sediments in Superfund Web site at http://www.epa.gov/superfund/resources/sediment/cstag.htm.


State cleanup agencies and affected Indian tribes or nations at sediment sites or impacted downstream areas have an important role as co-regulators and/or affected parties and as sources of essential information at sediment sites. States are the lead agency at some sediment sites, or lead the cleanup of land-based source areas or particular operable units within a site. States and Indian tribes are frequently an indispensable source of historic and current information about water body uses, fish consumption patterns, ecological habitat, other sources of contamination within a watershed, and other information useful in characterizing the site and selecting an appropriate remedy. At some sediment sites, states are also owners of aquatic lands, dams, or floodplains. Where this is the case, states have multiple roles at the site. At sediment sites, as for all sites, states (and local and tribal governments where applicable) should be involved early and often in the remedial investigation/feasibility study (RI/FS).

Coordination with the state may be especially helpful in the development of the conceptual site model, risk assessment, and remediation goals. Additional coordination during remedial design/remedial action phases is also very important (e.g., an opportunity to consult during the engineering design following remedy selection and on other technical matters related to implementation or monitoring of the remedy).

Additional information on coordinating with states and Indian tribes can be found in OSWER Directive 1-10 Chapter 1: Introduction 9375.3-03P, The Plan to Enhance the Role of States and Tribes in the Superfund Program (U.S. EPA 1998b), and OSWER Directive 9375.3-06P, Enhancing State and Tribal Role Directive (U.S. EPA 2001a).

Where there is a potential for natural resource injuries and damages associated with sediment sites, coordination between the remedial and trusteeship roles at the federal, tribal, and state levels is especially important. Several different federal, state, or tribal natural resource trustees may have an interest in decisions concerning contaminated sediment sites and should have an opportunity to be involved throughout the investigation and remedy selection process at sites where they have jurisdiction and interest. The EPA is required to notify natural resource trustees promptly whenever a release of hazardous materials, contaminants, or pollutants may injure natural resources (CERCLA §104 (b)(2)).

Trustees may include federal natural resource trustee agencies, such as the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service, U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), or U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). State agencies and federally recognized tribes may also be natural resource trustees. Where NOAA is the natural resource trustee, project managers should contact the Coastal Resource Coordinators (CRCs) who are assigned to each EPA region (except Regions 7 and 8, where there are no NOAA trust resources).

These CRCs are also designated natural resource trustee representatives for marine resources, including migratory fish.

Interests and data needs of the trustees and the EPA may be similar. When trustees are involved, project managers should consult them early in the RI/FS process regarding potential contaminant migration pathways, ecological receptors, and characteristics of the water body and watershed. Sharing information early with federal, tribal, and state trustees (rather than bringing them in later in the process) often leads to more efficient data collection and better coordination of protection of human health and the environment. Information on coordinating with trustees is found in EPA’s ECO Update: The Role of Natural Resource Trustees in the Superfund Process (U.S. EPA 1992a), in OSWER Directive 9200.4-22A, CERCLA Coordination with Natural Resource Trustees (U.S. EPA 1997a), and in OSWER Directive 9285.7-28P, Ecological Risk Assessment and Risk Management Principles for Superfund Sites (U.S. EPA 1999b).


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