Framework for Dredged Material Management
3.5.2 Evaluate Physical Characteristics of Sediment
Evaluation of the physical characteristics of sediments proposed for discharge is
necessary to determine potential environmental impacts of disposal, the need for
additional chemical or biological testing, as well as potential beneficial use of the
dredged material. If this information has not been gathered during the project evaluation
phase, it must be obtained at this point in the framework. The physical characteristics of
the dredged material include: particle-size distribution, water content or percent solids,
specific gravity of solids, and plasticity characteristics. The sediment physical
characteristics should also be evaluated from the standpoint of compatibility with
different kinds of biological communities likely to develop for the disposal environments
3.5.3 Conduct Initial Evaluation of Sediment Contamination
The initial screening for contamination is designed to determine, based on
available information, if the sediments to be dredged contain any contaminants in forms
and concentrations that are likely to cause unacceptable impacts to the environment.
During this screening procedure, specific contaminants of concern are identified in a site-
specific sediment, so that any subsequent evaluation is focused on the most pertinent
Initial considerations should include but are not limited to:
Potential routes by which contaminants could reasonably have been
introduced to the sediments.
Data from previous sediment chemical characterization and other tests of the
material or other similar material in the vicinity, provided the comparisons are
Spills of contaminants in the area to be dredged.
Industrial and municipal waste discharges (past and present).
Source and prior use of dredged materials (e.g., beach nourishment).
Substantial natural deposits of minerals and other natural substances.
Under CWA, some materials may be excluded from testing as specified in 40
CFR 230.60. Under MPRSA, testing must be conducted unless the exclusions in 227.13
(b) are met.
If the material does not meet the exclusions, contaminants must be addressed with
respect to their potential for biological effects and/or release through applicable
pathways. If such potential exists, the specific tests and assessments for contaminant
pathways described in Section 3.5.4 will be required. If ocean-disposal alternatives are
being considered, particular attention must be given to the presence of certain prohibited
materials (40 CFR 227.6) other than as trace contaminants. Detailed guidance for
chemical testing and evaluation of sediments can be found in USEPA/USACE (1995).