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Environmental Analysis

DREDGED MATERIALS EVALUATIONS
FOR OPEN WATER PLACEMENT,
OCEAN PLACEMENT, UPLAND
PLACEMENT, AND BENEFICIAL USE

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers–Baltimore, Galveston, Mobile, New York, Norfolk, and Savannah Districts
New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is tasked with finding acceptable placement alternatives for sediments dredged from navigation channels to coastal ports and harbors. Sampling and analysis of the material proposed for dredging is required to determine the most appropriate placement alternative and to facilitate the permitting process for dredging and placement. Possible placement options for the sediment include open water placement, ocean placement, open water placement associated with wetland restoration (beneficial use), upland placement, confined placement, and innovative use. EA has conducted comprehensive dredged material evaluations for USACE Mobile, Savannah, Norfolk, and Baltimore districts for both maintenance and new work dredging projects. EA has a reputation for providing rapid, action-oriented responses for the USACE and their clients.

Project locations include:

  • Pascagoula Harbor, Pascagoula Sound and Bar Channels, Naval Station Pascagoula, and Gulfport Harbor, Mississippi
  • Port St. Joe Harbor, Pensacola Harbor, Naval Station Pensacola, Escambia and Conecuh rivers, Florida
  • Mobile Harbor Ship Channel, Upper and Lower Mobile Bay Channels, Mobile Harbor Turning Basin, Arlington-Garrows Bend Channel, and Dog River, Alabama
  • Savannah River and King’s Bay, Georgia
  • Matagorda Bay, Simms Bayou, Freeport Harbor, Chocolate Bayou, Brazos Island Channel, and Houston Ship Channel, Texas
  • Craney Island Eastern Expansion, Norfolk Harbor, Thimble Shoal, and Atlantic Ocean Channels, Virginia
  • Kill Van Kull, Arthur Kill, Patchogue River, Flushing Bay, East River, and Hudson River, New York
  • Claremont Channel, Elizabeth Channel, Port Jersey Channel, Howland Hook, and Newark Bay, New Jersey
  • Baltimore Harbor, Patapsco River, Maryland
  • Upper Chesapeake Bay (Maryland) Approach Channels to the Port of Baltimore
  • Lower Chesapeake Bay (Virginia) Approach Channels to the Port of Baltimore.

For each project, EA developed comprehensive Sampling and Analysis Plans that included:

  • Project objectives, schedules, and personnel
  • Field Sampling Plan
  • Quality Assurance Project Plans for physical, chemical, and ecotoxicological testing
  • Site Safety and Health Plan.

The documents were prepared in accordance with USACE Manual EM 200-1-3, OSHA 29 CFR 1910.120, and EM 385-1-1. The technical approach for the studies was developed based on tiered guidelines in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)/USACE’s Ocean Testing Manual (1991), EPA/USACE’s Inland Testing Manual (1998), USACE’s Upland Testing Manual (2003), EPA’s Regional Implementation Manuals (Regions 2, 3, 4, and 6), and EPA/USACE’s QA/QC Guidelines for Dredged Material Evaluations (1995).

Sediment collection techniques included vibracoring, gravity coring, split-spoon, and grab sampling. Over the past 12 years, EA has collected more than 3,000 sediment cores to depths ranging from -3 ft to 100 ft below the sediment surface to support sediment assessments related to dredging projects. EA managed the physical and chemical analysis of the sediments, including grain size, specific gravity, Atterberg limits, total solids, volatile organics, semivolatile organics, metals, sequential extraction procedure metals, pesticides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyl congeners, dioxin/furan congeners, butyltins, ammonia, total sulfide, cyanide, acid volatile sulfides, total Kjeldahl nitrogen, total organic carbon, total phosphorus, and nitrates and nitrites. In addition, EA managed the chemical analysis of standard and effluent elutriates.

For ocean placement, EA’s Ecotoxicology Laboratory conducted water column bioassays, whole sediment bioassays, and aquatic bioaccumulation studies. Water column testing species included Americamysis bahia (opossum shrimp), Arbacia punctulata (purple sea urchin), Cyprinodon variegatus (sheepshead minnow), and Mytilus edulis (blue mussel). Whole sediment bioassays were conducted with Leptocheirus plumulosus (estuarine amphipod), Ampelisca abdita (marine amphipod), Neanthes arenaceodentata (marine polychaete), and Americamysis bahia (opossum shrimp). In addition, 28-day laboratory bioaccumulation studies were conducted with Nereis virens (sand worm) and Macoma nasuta (blunt-nose clam) to assess potential uptake of contaminants from the dredged material into the tissue of aquatic organisms. Results of the water column bioassays, whole sediment bioassays, and aquatic bioaccumulation studies were used to determine compliance with the Limiting Permissible Concentration. Results of the tiered sediment evaluations were used to recommend placement alternatives, facilitate the permitting process, and comply with Clean Water Act requirements for open water placement and with Section 103 of the Marine Protection Research and Sanctuaries Act for ocean placement.

For several upland projects, EA’s Ecotoxicology Laboratory conducted plant bioaccumulation studies to assess uptake of contaminants from dredged material into wetland and upland plant tissues. The plant issue data were utilized in ecological risk assessments to assess potential effects to upland biological communities.