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Assessment and Remediation of Contaminated Sediments (ARCS) Program

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Remediation Guidance Document
Chapter 1

US Environmental Protection Agency. 1994. ARCS Remediation Guidance Document. EPA 905-B94-003. Chicago, Ill.: Great Lakes National Program Office.

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1. Introduction

Although toxic discharges into the Great Lakes and elsewhere have been reduced in the last 20 years, persistent contaminants in sediments continue to pose a potential risk to human health and the environment. High concentrations of contaminants in bottom sediments and associated adverse effects have been well documented throughout the Great Lakes and associated connecting channels. The extent of sediment contamination and its associated adverse effects have been the subject of considerable concern and study in the Great Lakes community and elsewhere. For example, contaminated sediments can have direct toxic effects on aquatic life, such as the development of cancerous tumors in bottom-feeding fish exposed to polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in sediments. In addition, the bioaccumulation of toxic contaminants in the food chain can also pose a risk to humans, wildlife, and aquatic organisms. As a result, advisories against consumption of fish are in place in many areas of the Great Lakes. These advisories have had a negative economic impact on the affected areas.

To address concerns about the adverse effects of contaminated sediments in the Great Lakes, Annex 14 of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (1978) between the United States and Canada (as amended by the 1987 Protocol) stipulates that the cooperating parties will identify the nature and extent of sediment contamination in the Great Lakes, develop methods to assess impacts, and evaluate the technological capability of programs to remedy such contamination. The 1987 amendments to the Clear Water Act, in section 118(c)(3), authorized the Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO) to coordinate and conduct a 5- year study and demonstration projects relating to the appropriate treatment of toxic contaminants in bottom sediments. Five areas were specified in the Act as requiring priority consideration in conducting demonstration projects: Saginaw Bay, Michigan; Sheboygan Harbor, Wisconsin; Grand Calumet River, Indiana; Ashtabula River, Ohio; and Buffalo River, New York. To fulfill the requirements of the Act, GLNPO initiated the Assessment and Remediation of Contaminated Sediments (ARCS) Program. In addition, the Great Lakes Critical Programs Act of 1990 amended the section, now section 118(c)(7), by extending the program by one year and specifying completion dates for certain interim activities. ARCS is an integrated program for the development and testing of assessment techniques and remedial action alternatives for contaminated sediments. Information from ARCS Program activities will help address contaminated sediment concerns in the development of Remedial Action Plans (RAPs) for all 43 Great Lakes Areas of Concern (AOCs, as identified by the United States and Canadian governments), as well as similar concerns in the development of Lakewide Management Plans (LaMPs).

To accomplish the ARCS Program objectives, the following work groups were established:

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Applicability of Guidance

This document is focused on the remediation of contaminated sediments in the Great Lakes, and will provide guidance on the selection, design, and implementation of sediment remediation technologies. This document has been written for use by professionals involved in the development or implementation of RAPs for Great Lakes AOCs. This report will describe the procedures for evaluating the feasibility of remediation technologies, testing technologies on a bench- and pilot- scale, identifying the components of a remedial design, estimating contaminant losses, and developing cost estimates for full- scale applications.

It is recommended that this document be used in conjunction with other reports prepared under the ARCS Program which provide detailed information on specific technologies (Averett et al., in prep.), contaminant loss estimation procedures (Myers et al., in prep.), and examples of full-scale remediation plans (USEPA, in prep.b). Also, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) report Selecting Remediation Techniques for Contaminated Sediment (USEPA 1993d) is recommended as a reference, particularly for those sites involving the Superfund program.

The decision to remediate contaminated sediments in a waterway and the selection of the appropriate remediation technology(s) are part of a step- wise process using the guidance developed by the three ARCS technical work groups. The ARCS Assessment Guidance Document (USEPA 1994a) is used to characterize the chemical and toxicological properties of bottom sediments. The guidance herein provides tools for evaluating the feasibility of remediation technologies and estimating their costs and contaminant losses. The ARCS Risk Assessment and Modeling Overview Document (USEPA 1993a) provides a framework for integrating the information developed in the other two steps and evaluating the ecological and human health risks and benefits of remedial alternatives, including no action.

The procedures described herein can be used iteratively within a modeling and risk assessment framework to evaluate a series of remedial alternatives (which may consist of multiple remediation technologies) of varying costs and benefits. These procedures may also be used to determine the most economical option for cases where the scope and objectives for sediment remediation are already fully defined.

While the ARCS Program was specifically designed for the Great Lakes AOCs, most of the guidance provided herein is applicable to contaminated sediments in other waterways. However, marine and estuarine sediments may have some physicochemical differences from freshwater sediments that may affect the applicability of some remediation technologies. In addition, many of the technologies evaluated by the ETWG were originally developed for media other than bottom sediments, such as soils, sludges, water, mineral ores, and industrial waste streams. As a result, the guidance presented herein has some applicability to the remediation of other media, although the applicability to contaminated soils is the most direct.

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