Jump to main content.


Ecological Risk Assessment Screening Benchmarks

Ecological Risk Assessment (ERA) Screening Benchmarks

This page includes references and links to various documents that provide information on deriving screening benchmarks (See Step 2 of the 8-Step Ecological Risk Assessment process) and other aspects of ecological risk assessment, such as assessing risk due to 2,3,7,8-TCDD. It also includes links to selected sources of screening benchmarks that are used in the Ecological Risk Assessment process.

When using calculations (Hazard Quotients) to help determine ecological risk by a particular Contaminant of Potential Ecological Concern (COPEC), the following steps are generally performed in Ecological Risk Assessments (ERAs).

  1. Results of the chemical analyses of the samples collected during the inspection are reviewed.
  2. COPECs are selected based on concentrations determined from on-site samples versus generic ecological screening benchmarks.
  3. If the maximum concentration of a sample exceeded the benchmark (or Toxicity Reference Value; TRV), thus resulting in a Hazard Quotient of at least one, then the contaminant was considered to be a COPEC and is retained in ERA for additional analysis.

A Hazard Quotient is the ratio between the measured concentration and the selected screening benchmark or TRV. A result of one or greater suggests the possibility of ecological risk (See Step 2 for additional information).

Summary of Selected Screening Benchmark Numbers:

These links provide information that may be useful in preparing an ecological risk assessment. This is not a comprehensive list, merely a sampling of the numerous sources of screening numbers that are available for Ecological Risk Assessments. Also included are several sources of guidance on the derivation of benchmarks and the screening portion of the risk assessment process.

US EPA Region 5 makes no promise that the information presented therein is correct. Always be sure to consult with a Regional Superfund ecologist to verify that the use of any and all toxicity values and life history information is acceptable. References and links via this webpage are not endorsements of the information on those websites.

You will need Adobe Reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA's PDF page to learn more.

US EPA
Sediment Quality Guidelines

Media: Sediment

Contaminants: Multiple

Links to multiple web sites

Memo on Ecological Screening Benchmarks

Media: Sediment, soil

Contaminants: Multiple

Discussion of various sources of sediment and soil ecological screening values; includes annotated links; written by Region 5 Ecologist, James Chapman.

Sediment Toxicity Handbook
  • Kadeg, R. and S. Pavlou. 1989. Sediment Toxicity Handbook. Envirosphere Co., Bellevue, WA, prepared for US EPA Office of Superfund and Office of Water.

Media: Sediment

Contaminants: Multiple

Compilation of sediment toxicity fact sheets

Prediction of sediment toxicity
  • Ingersoll, C., D. MacDonald, N. Wang, J. Crane, L. Field, P. Haverland, N. Kemble, R. Lindskoog, C. Severn, and D. Smorong. 2000. Prediction of sediment toxicity using consensus-based freshwater sediment quality guidelines. Prepared by US Geological Survey for US Environmental Protection Agency Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO). Chicago. EPA 905/R-00/007. http://www.cerc.usgs.gov/pubs/center/pdfDocs/91126.pdf (1.13 MB) Exit EPA Disclaimer

Media: Sediment

Contaminants: Multiple

The primary objectives of this study were to: (1) evaluate the ability of consensus-based SQGs (sediment quality guidelines) to predict toxicity in a freshwater database for field-collected sediments in the Great Lakes basin; (2) evaluate the ability of SQGs to predict sediment toxicity on a regional geographic basis elsewhere in North America; and (3) compare approaches for evaluating the combined effects of chemical mixtures on the toxicity of field-collected sediments. A database was developed from 92 published reports which included a total of 1657 samples with high-quality matching sediment toxicity and chemistry data.

Assessment of 2,3,7,8-TCDD
  • US EPA. 1993. Interim Report on Data and Methods for Assessment of 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin Risks to Aquatic Life and Associated Wildlife. Office of Research and Development. EPA/600/R-93/055.

Media: Surface water, aquatic life and associated wildlife

Contaminants: 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin

Description coming

US EPA EcoUpdate - Ecotox Thresholds

Media: Surface water; sediment

Contaminants: PCBs and pestcides; PAHs and other organics; inorganics

Brief guidance, equations, Toxicity Reference Values (TRVs):screening values for sediment and surface water toxicity;website also has program for performing screening calculations.

US EPA Equilibrium Partitioning Sediment Benchmarks (ESBs): Dieldrin

Media: Sediment, benthic organisms

Contaminants: Dieldrin

This equilibrium partitioning sediment benchmark (ESB) document describes procedures to derive concentrations of the insecticide dieldrin in sediment which are protective of the presence of benthic organisms. The equilibrium partitioning (EqP) approach was chosen because it accounts for the varying biological availability of chemicals in different sediments and allows for the incorporation of the appropriate biological effects concentration. This provides for the derivation of benchmarks that are causally linked to the specific chemical, applicable across sediments, and appropriately protective of benthic organisms.

US EPA Equilibrium Partitioning Sediment Benchmarks (ESBs): Endrin

Media: Sediment, benthic organisms

Contaminants: Endrin

This equilibrium partitioning sediment benchmark (ESB) document describes procedures to derive concentrations of the insecticide Endrin in sediment which are protective of the presence of benthic organisms. The equilibrium partitioning (EqP) approach was chosen because it accounts for the varying biological availability of chemicals in different sediments and allows for the incorporation of the appropriate biological effects concentration. This provides for the derivation of benchmarks that are causally linked to the specific chemical, applicable across sediments, and appropriately protective of benthic organisms.

US EPA Equilibrium Partitioning Sediment Benchmarks (ESBs): PAH Mixtures

Media: Sediment, benthic organisms

Contaminants: PAH Mixtures

This equilibrium partitioning sediment benchmark (ESB) document describes procedures to derive concentrations of PAH mixtures in sediment which are protective of the presence of benthic organisms. The equilibrium partitioning (EqP) approach was chosen because it accounts for the varying biological availability of chemicals in different sediments and allows for the incorporation of the appropriate biological effects concentration. This provides for the derivation of benchmarks that are causally linked to the specific chemical, applicable across sediments, and appropriately protective of benthic organisms.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration (NOAA)
NOAA Utility of AVS/EqP

Media: Sediment

Contaminants: Multiple

A discussion of two techniques, the equilibrium partitioning (EqP) method and the acid volatile sulfides (AVS) method, that provide another approach to estimating ecological impacts of toxic contaminants in sediment. View, download, or print the full paper in PDF format.

NOAA Sediment Guidelines

Media: Sediment

Contaminants: Multiple

Links to NOAA sediment guideline webpp.
NOAA SQuiRTs

Media: Sediment, surface water, soil

Contaminants: all types

NOAA has developed a set of Screening Quick Reference Tables, or Squirts, that present screening concentrations for inorganic and organic contaminants in various environmental media (water, sediment, and soil). The Squirts also include guidelines for preserving samples and analytical technique options.

NOAA Biological effects of contaminants in sediments
  • Long, E. and L. Morgan. 1990. The Potential for Biological Effects of Sediment-Sorbed Contaminants Tested in the National Status and Trends Program. NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS OMA 52. Nat. Oceanic and Atmospheric Admin., Seattle.

Media: Sediment

Contaminants: Multiple

Description coming


U.S. EPA Benchmarks
Ecological Soil Screening Levels (Eco-SSLs)

Media: Soil

Contaminants: Pesticides; inorganics; Pending: PAHs, additional pesticides, additional inorganics

The Ecological Soil Screening Level (Eco-SSL) derivation process represents the collaborative effort of a multi-stakeholder workgroup consisting of federal, state, consulting, industry and academic participants led by the U.S. EPA, Office of Emergency and Remedial Response. It is emphasized that the Eco-SSLs are soil screening numbers, and as such are not appropriate for use as cleanup levels. Screening ecotoxicity values are derived to avoid underestimating risk. Requiring a cleanup based solely on Eco-SSL values would not be technically defensible.

The Eco-SSL web site provides an overview of the contaminant. Separate discussions are provided for each receptor group including a comprehensive list of literature evaluated under the effort, and a summary of data used in deriving Eco-SSL values.

U.S. EPA ARCS
  • U.S. EPA 1996. Calculation and evaluation of sediment effect concentrations for the amphipod Hyalella azteca and the midge Chironomus riparius. EPA 905/R96/008. Great Lakes National Program Office, Chicago, IL. (http://www.cerc.usgs.gov/clearinghouse/data/brdcerc0004.html)
  • Jones, D.S. , G.W. Suter II, and R.N. Hull 1997. Toxicological Benchmarks for Screening Potential Contaminants of Concern for Effects on Sediment-Associated Biota: 1997 Revision. ES/ER/TM-95/R3. Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee. (http://www.hsrd.ornl.gov/ecorisk/tm95r4.pdf) (48pp, 182K) Exit EPA Disclaimer

Media: Sediment

Contaminants: PCBs and pestcides?; PAHs and other organics; inorganics

U.S. EPA Assessment and Remediation of Contaminated Sediments (ARCS) Program. The representative effect concentration selected from among the high no-effect-concentrations for Hyalella azteca and Chironomus riparius are presented in EPA (1996) based on the ranking method presented in Jones et al. (1997). The majority of the data are for freshwater sediments.

U.S. EPA - National Water Quality Criteria

Media: Surface water

Contaminants: PCBs and pestcides; PAHs and other organics; inorganics

Values are available for freshwater, saltwater, human consumption; inorganics, organics, pesticides, PCBs

U.S. EPA Region 3 Ecological Risk Assessment Page
  • The Region III BTAG Screening Benchmarks are values to be used for the evaluation of sampling data at Superfund sites. These values facilitate consistency in screening level ecological risk assessments throughout Region III. Additional toxicological information should be considered in Step 3 as provided by the Ecological Risk Assessment Guidance for Superfund (EPA, 1997). (http://www.epa.gov/reg3hwmd/risk/eco/index.htm)

Media: Marine and freshwater sediment, surface water

Contaminants: PCBs and pestcides; PAHs and other organics; inorganics

The tables include compounds for which benchmark values have been established or that are considered bioaccumulative compounds (identified in tables). For additional information on compounds for which no benchmarks are identified and the use of alternate values, please consult the Region 3 Biological Technical Assistance Group (BTAG) FAQs specific to these subjects.

U.S. EPA Region 4 Screening Benchmarks

Media: Soil, sediment, surface water

Contaminants: PCBs and pestcides; PAHs and other organics; inorganics

The Region 4 surface water screening values were obtained from Water Quality Criteria documents and represent the chronic ambient water quality criteria values for the protection of aquatic life. They are intended to protect 95% of the species, 95% of the time. For sediments, these are the higher of two values, the EPA Contract Laboratory Program Practical Quantitation Limit and the Effects Value, which is the lower of the ERL and the TEL. These are possible effects benchmarks.

U.S. EPA Region 5 Ecological Screening Levels

Media: Soil, sediment, surface water

Contaminants: PCBs and pestcides; PAHs and other organics; inorganics

Formerly known as Environmental Data Quality Levels (EDQLs), the ESLs are are media-specific (soil, water, sediment, and air) values that can be used for initial screening levels to use in ecological risk assessments; includes values for inorganics, organics, pesticides, and PCBs. They are not intended to serve as cleanup levels.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (U.S. ACE) / U.S. EPA ERAD

Media: Wildlife

Contaminants: Multiple

Environmental Residue-Effects Database (ERAD); tissue residues

U.S. EPA EcoUpdate - Ecotox Thresholds

Media: Sediment, surface water

Contaminants: PCBs and pestcides; PAHs and other organics; inorganics

Brief guidance, equations, Toxicity Reference Values (TRVs):screening values for sediment and surface water toxicity;website also has program for performing screening calculations.

National Oceanic and Atomspheric Administration (NOAA) Benchmarks
NOAA Sediment Quality Guidelines (NOAA - SQG)

Media: Sediment

Contaminants: Multiple

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Sediment Quality Guidelines. "The SQGs were intended for use in ranking areas that may be adversely affected by contamination and ranking chemicals that might be of potential concern. They are only intended for interpretation of chemical data from analysis of sediments, not regulatory, clean-up, action-trigger, or remedial target levels."

NOAA SQuiRTs

Media: Sediment, surface water, soil

Contaminants: Multiple

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has developed a set of Screening Quick Reference Tables, or Squirts, that present screening concentrations for inorganic and organic contaminants in various environmental media (water, sediment, and soil). The Squirts also include guidelines for preserving samples and analytical technique options.

U.S. Geological Survey
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Acute Toxicity Database

Media: (all)

Contaminants: Multiple

Screening numbers developed for acute exposure by the USGS. Sediment Effects Concentrations. SECs are defined as the concentrations of individual contaminants in sediment below which toxicity is rarely observed and above which toxicity is frequently observed. Three types of SECs were calculated for Hyalella azteca and for Chironomus riparius: (1) Effect Range Low (ERL) and Effect Range Median (ERM), (2) Threshold Effect Level (TEL) and Probable Effect Level (PEL), and (3) No Effect Concentration (NEC; analogous to Apparent Effect Thresholds).

Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Oak Ridge National Laboratory Guidance Tools and Applications

Media: Sediment, soil, surface water, wildlife

Contaminants: PCBs, pesticides, PAHs, other organics, inorganics;

Includes screening benchmark reports for media (soil, sediments, and surface water) and wildlife and other guidance. Topics covered include aquatic biota; soil invertebrates; wildlife; terrestrial plants; sediments; bioaccumulation; exposure models; ecological risk assessment (ERA) guidance; preliminary remediation goals (PRGs); radiation exposure.

World Health Organization (WHO)
World Health Organization Toxicity Equivalency Factors (WHO TEFs)
  • Toxic Equivalency Factors (TEFs) for PCBs, PCDDs, PCDFs for Humans and Wildlife. Van den Berg, Martin, et al. 1998. Environmental Health Perspectives. 106:775-791; World Health Organization numbers

Media: Wildlife

Contaminants: PCBs and pestcides;

Guidance on the application of Toxic Equivalency Factors; TEFs are used to help determine the relative toxicity of certain types of pesticides when compared to 2,3,7,8-TCDD.

Canadian and European Benchmarks
Canadian Quality Guidelines

Media: Sediment, soil, surface water, wildlife

Contaminants: PCBs and pestcides; PAHs and other organics; inorganics;

Procedures developed by the Canadian government for developing site-specific screening numbers for all media: water, sediment, and soil, and tissue.

EEC Water Quality Objectives
  • EEC. 1994. EEC Water Quality Objectives for Chemicals Dangerous to Aquatic Environments (List 1). Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. 137:83-110

Media: Surface water

Contaminants: PCBs and pestcides; PAHs and other organics

Netherlands
  • Swartjes, F.B. 1999. Risk-based Assessment of Soil and Groundwater Quality in the Netherlands: Standards and Remediation Urgency. Risk Analysis 19(6): 1235-1249

Media: Soil, ground water

Contaminants: PCBs and pestcides; inorganics;

European screening numbers for soil, groundwater; Target Values for soil are related to negligible risk for ecosystems. This is assumed to be 1% of the Maximal Permissible Risk (MPR) level for ecosystems, where MPR is the concentration expected to be hazardous for 5% of the species in the ecosystem, or the 95% protection level. For metals, background concentrations are taken into account in arriving at a value.

Netherlands
  • Crommentuijn, T., M. Polder, and E. van de Plassche. 1997. Maximum Permissible Concentrations and Negligible Concentrations for Metals, Taking Background Concentrations into Account. Nat. Inst. Public Health and the Environ., Bilthoven, The Netherlands. RIVM Report 601501 001. http://www.rivm.nl/bibliotheek/rapporten/601501001.html Exit EPA Disclaimer

Media: Surface water; soil; sediments

Contaminants: Metals

Maximum Permissible Concentrations (MPCs) and Negligible Concentrations (NCs) have been derived for a series of heavy metals

Spain
  • Urzelai, A., M. Vega, and E. Angulo. 2000. Deriving ecological risk-based soil quality values in the Basque Country. Sci Total Environ 247: 279-284. 

Media: Soil

Contaminants: Multiple

Basque Country

Other Sources of Screening Benchmarks
Consensus-based sediment quality guidelines for freshwater ecosystems.

Media: Sediment

Contaminants: PCBs and pestcides; PAHs and other organics; inorganics

Abstract:
Numerical sediment quality guidelines (SQGs) for freshwater ecosystems have previously been developed using a variety of approaches. Each approach has certain advantages and limitations which influence their application in the sediment quality assessment process. In an effort to focus on the agreement among these various published SQGs, consensus-based SQGs were developed for 28 chemicals of concern in freshwater sediments (i.e., metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls, and pesticides). For each contaminant of concern, two SQGs were developed from the published SQGs, including a threshold effect concentration (TEC) and a probable effect concentration (PEC). The resultant SQGs for each chemical were evaluated for reliability using matching sediment chemistry and toxicity data from field studies conducted throughout the United States. The results of this evaluation indicated that most of the TECs (i.e., 21 of 28) provide an accurate basis for predicting the absence of sediment toxicity. Similarly, most of the PECs (i.e., 16 of 28) provide an accurate basis for predicting sediment toxicity. Mean PEC quotients were calculated to evaluate the combined effects of multiple contaminants in sediment. Results of the evaluation indicate that the incidence of toxicity is highly correlated to the mean PEC quotient (R2 = 0.98 for 347 samples). It was concluded that the consensus-based SQGs provide a reliable basis for assessing sediment quality conditions in freshwater ecosystems.

Consensus sediment quality guidelines for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon mixtures
  • Swartz, R. C. 1999. Consensus sediment quality guidelines for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon mixtures. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. 18:780-787
    (http://www.setacjournals.org/) Exit EPA Disclaimer

Media: Sediment

Contaminants: PAHs and other organics

Abstract:
Sediment quality guidelines (SQGs) for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) have been derived from a variety of laboratory, field, and theoretical foundations. They include the screening level concentration, effects ranges–low and–median, equilibrium partitioning concentrations, apparent effects threshold, ?PAH model, and threshold and probable effects levels. The resolution of controversial differences among the PAH SQGs lies in an understanding of the effects of mixtures. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons virtually always occur in field-collected sediment as a complex mixture of covarying compounds. When expressed as a mixture concentration, that is, total PAH (TPAH), the guidelines form three clusters that were intended in their original derivations to represent threshold (TEC = 290 ?g/g organic carbon [OC]), median (MEC = 1,800 ?g/g OC), and extreme (EEC = 10,000 ?g/g OC) effects concentrations. The TEC/MEC/EEC consensus guidelines provide a unifying synthesis of other SQGs, reflect causal rather than correlative effects, account for mixtures, and predict sediment toxicity and benthic community perturbations at sites of PAH contamination. The TEC offers the most useful SQG because PAH mixtures are unlikely to cause adverse effects on benthic ecosystems below the TEC.

Consensus-based sediment effect concentrations for polychlorinated biphenyls
  • MacDonald, D. D. 2000. Development and Evaluation of consensus-based sediment effect concentrations for polychlorinated biphenyls. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. 19:1403-1413

Media: Sediment

Contaminants: PCBs and pestcides

Description coming

Marine and estuarine sediments
  • Long, E., D. MacDonald, S. Smith and F. Calder. 1995. Incidence of adverse biological effects within ranges of chemical concentrations in marine and estuarine sediments. Environmental Management 19: 81-97.

Media: Sediment

Contaminants: Multiple

Description coming

Use of sediment quality guidelines
  • Long, E. and D. MacDonald. 1998. Recommended uses of empirically derived sediment quality guidelines for marine and estuarine ecosystems. Human Ecol Risk Assessm 4: 1019-1039.

Media: Sediment

Contaminants: Multiple

Recommendations for application and interpretation of sediment quality guidelines.

Predicting toxicity in sediments
  • Long, E., J. Field, and D. MacDonald. 1998. Predicting toxicity in marine sediments with numerical sediment quality guidelines. Environ Toxicol Chem 17: 714-727

Media: Sediment

Contaminants: Multiple

Description coming

Predicting PAH toxicity in sediments
  • Swartz, F., D. Schults, R. Ozretich, J. Lamberson, F. Cole, T. DeWitt, M. Redmond, and S. Ferraro. 1995. PAH: A model to predict the toxicity of polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbon mixtures in field-collected sediments. Environ Toxicol Chem 14: 1977-1987.

Media: Sediment

Contaminants: PAHs

Description coming

Selenium toxicity in sediments
  • Van Derveer, W. and S. Canton. 1997. Sediment selenium toxicity thresholds and derivation of water-quality criteria for freshwater biota of wetland streams. Environ Toxicol Chem 16: 1260-1268.

Media: Sediment

Contaminants: Selenium

Description coming

Review of metal benchmarks
  • Bengtsson, G. and L. Tranvik. 1989. Critical metal concentrations for forest soil invertebrates, a review of the limitations. Water, Air, Soil Pollut 47: 381-417.

Media: Soil

Contaminants: Metals

Description coming

Derivation of soil critical limits
  • Lofts, S., D. Spurgeon, C. Svendsen, and E. Tipping. 2004. Deriving soil critical limits for Cu, Zn, Cd, and Pb: a method based on free ion concentrations. Environ Sci Technol 38: 3623-3631.

Media: Soil

Contaminants: Metals

Description coming

State Guidance and Criteria
 
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Media: Sediment

Contaminants: Multiple

This report was prepared to provide the Florida Department of Environmental Protection biological effects-based sediment quality assessment guidelines (SQAGs) for Florida coastal waters. A variety of approaches for deriving numerical SQAGs were reviewed and evaluated. Using an approach recommended by Long and Morgan (1990; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), preliminary SQAGs for 34 priority substances in Florida coastal waters were derived and evaluated. These SQAGs are intended to assist sediment quality assessment applications, such as identifying priority areas for non-point source management actions, designing wetland restoration projects, and monitoring trends in environmental contamination. They are not intended to be used as sediment quality criteria.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Media: Sediment

Contaminants: Multiple

    The following three elements of the overall Freshwater Sediment Quality Assessment Initiative are intended to provide FDEP staff and others with the guidance needed to conduct sediment quality assessments and to support defensible sediment management decisions:
  • Formulation of an integrated framework for planning, designing, implementing, and interpreting the results of sediment quality investigations;
  • Development of an interpretive tool for assessing metal enrichment in freshwater sediments;
  • Establishmentofnumerical,sedimentquality assessment guidelines (SQAGs) for assessing the potential for adverse biological effects associated with exposure to contaminated sediments.
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency

Media: Surface water

Contaminants: Multiple

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Derived Water Quality Criteria

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality

Media: GSI*, surface water, soil, sediment

Contaminants: Multiple

  • *GSI - Ground water-Surface water Interface (the zone immediately below the bottom of a water body where ground water mixes with surface water while discharging into a water body);
  • While the Michigan Department of Environmental Quailty (MDEQ) does not have any specific benchmarks for ecological risk assessments the MDEQ Part 201 criteria for soil and GSI are available in the RRD Operational Memorandum No 1 Exit EPA Disclaimer. This document also discusses when the generic criteria do not address ecological risks and the process for determining if a risk assessment is necessary for a facility. The Part 201 process for development of site specific sediment criteria includes screening values. A copy of the draft RRD Operational Memorandum that discusses the process is attached. Surface Water Criteria Exit EPA Disclaimer.
  • MDEQ - spreadsheet calculator for GSI values (Excel XLS) Exit EPA Disclaimer (8 inorganics, 2 organics)
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA)
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

Media: Multiple

Contaminants: Multiple

In order to rationalize and streamline its Superfund and Voluntary Investigation and Cleanup Programs, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has adopted a risk-based decision making approach. Risk-based decision making provides a means for making technically defensible decisions which allocate resources to sites and conditions posing the greatest long-term risks to humans and the environment.

The screening criteria represent contaminant levels in the media above which unacceptable risks could occur under the general exposure conditions used in developing the criteria. During the screening evaluation, it is assumed that the site will be developed for residential purposes, and thus, that exposures related to residential uses may occur. This relatively conservative land use assumption helps to ensure that protective decisions result from the screening evaluation, because the evaluation depends on information from site characterizations that may not be comprehensive at this early stage of the investigation and clean-up process.

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

Media: Sediment

Contaminants: Multiple

The MPCA does not have sediment quality standards. Sediment quality targets (SQTs), adopted for use in the St. Louis River Area of Concern, can be used throughout the state as benchmark values for making comparisons to surficial sediment chemistry measurements.

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

Media: Sediment

Contaminants: Multiple

The St. Louis River Area of Concern (AOC) is an important transboundary waterway between northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin. This AOC contains several sites where concentrations of metals, mercury, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), pesticides, and/or dioxins and furans are elevated in the sediments compared to reference areas. In areas where these chemical substances occur at concentrations that pose a known or suspected threat to environmental or human health, the sediments are designated as contaminated. Restrictions on dredging, fish advisories, and habitat impairments to bottom feeding organisms are just a few of the use impairments resulting from contaminated sediments in this Great Lakes AOC. Since the St. Louis River constitutes the second largest tributary to Lake Superior, the potential transport of sediment-derived contaminants to Lake Superior is of additional concern to many stakeholders.

This report provides a series of recommendations for advancing the assessment, management, and remediation of contaminated sediments in the St. Louis River AOC.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Media: Sediment

Contaminants: Non-polar organic contaminants; metals

This revised sediment criteria document was prepared to incorporate scientific literature published since 1989, and to establish the purpose of sediment criteria for screening; that is, to identify areas of sediment contamination and to make a preliminary assessment of the risk posed by the contamination to human health and the environment. Criteria are developed for two classes of contaminants - non-polar organic contaminants and metals. Non-polar organic contaminant criteria are derived using the equilibrium partitioning approach, which has now been endorsed by the EPA Science Advisory Board. This approach estimates the biological impacts that a contaminant may cause based on it's affinity to sorb to organic carbon in the sediment. EPA water quality criteria are used only when New York State has not published a standard or guidance value for a particular compound. Water quality criteria for bioaccumulation proposed by the Divisions of Fish and Wildlife and Marine Resources are used when no New York State water quality standard or guidance value for bioaccumulation has been developed. Metals criteria are derived from Ministry of Ontario guidelines and NOAA data that make use of the screening level approach.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency
Ohio Environmental Protection Agency

Media: Multiple

Contaminants: Multiple

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA):
Ecological Risk Assessment Guidance; includes exposure parameters (food and water intake rates, body weights, etc.)

Washington State Department of Ecology
Washington State Department of Ecology

Media: Sediment

Contaminants: Multiple

The Sediment Management Standards currently contain 2 sets of numeric chemical criteria that apply to Puget Sound marine sediments:

  • The "no effects" level -- the Sediment Quality Standards, WAC 172-204-320 -- used as a sediment quality goal for Washington State sediments (shown below);
  • The "minor adverse effects" level -- The Sediment Impact Zone Maximum Level, WAC 173-204-420; and the Sediment Cleanup Screening Level/Minimum Cleanup Level, WAC 173-204-520 -- used as an upper regulatory level for source control and cleanup decision making.
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Media: Sediment

Contaminants: PAHs; inorganics; others?

Wisconsin DNR needs effects-based (i.e., empirical) sediment quality guidelines (SQGs) for commonly found, in place contaminants to serve as benchmark values for making comparisons to the concentrations of contaminant levels in sediments at sites under evaluation for various reasons (e.g., NR 347 dredging projects, degree and extent studies, screening level ecological risk assessments).

The CBSQGs as developed only involve effects to benthic macroinvertebrate species. The guidelines do not consider the potential for bioaccumulation in aquatic organisms and subsequent food chain transfers and effects to humans or wildlife that consume the upper food chain organisms. For the most part where noncarcinogenic or nonbioaccumulative organic chemicals are involved, the guidelines should be protective of human health and wildlife concerns.

Where bioaccumulative compounds such as PCBs and methyl mercury are involved, protection of human health or wildlife-based endpoints could result in more restrictive sediment concentrations than contained in the CBSQGs. Where these bioaccumulative compounds are involved, the CBSQGs need to be used in conjunction with other tools, such as human health and ecological risk assessments, bioaccumulation-based guidelines, bioaccumulation studies, and 2 tissue residue guidelines to evaluate the direct toxicity and upper food chain effects of these compounds. Food chain models will need to be used to estimate safe levels of contaminants in sediments that will not result in accumulated levels in upper food chain organisms that exceed toxicity and tissue reference values.


Local Navigation


Jump to main content.