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Great Lakes Dredged Material Testing & Evaluation Manual

Manual Development & Status

History of National Guidance

The discharge of dredged or fill materials to waters of the United States is regulated under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, Public Law 92-500. An evaluation of a proposed discharge of dredged or fill materials must be completed in compliance with Section 404(b)(1) of this Act, pursuant to 40 CFR 230.10. Compliance is determined by the Secretary of the Army acting through the Chief of Engineers, and is based upon the 404(b)(1) Guidelines promulgated by the Administrator of the USEPA in conjunction with the USACE.

The first Guidelines were issued in 1975 and, pursuant to these Guidelines, the USACE published an interim guidance manual entitled "Ecological evaluation of proposed discharge of dredged or fill material into navigable waters" (USACE 1976). The amendments to the CWA in 1977 and experience gained between 1975 and 1980 led to a revision of these Guidelines. This revision, at 40 CFR 230, became a final rule on December 24, 1980.

A key component in determining compliance with the Guidelines is the evaluation and testing procedure for the material proposed for discharge pursuant to 40 CFR 230.60 and 230.61. These procedures had been addressed in the interim guidance manual in 1976 and revised procedures were provided on December 24, 1980, as a proposed rule. The final rule specified, at 40 CFR 230.61, that the chemical, physical, and biological evaluation and testing that were based upon the 1975 Guidelines remain in effect until final rule-making. Although a final rule has yet to be issued, additional experience gained since 1980 has indicated that the 1976 manual is in need of revision.

In 1990, the USEPA and USACE began efforts to update the 1976 national guidance manual. The national guidance manual, Evaluation of Dredged Material Proposed for Discharge in Waters of the U.S. - Testing Manual, also known as the "Inland Testing Manual" was finalized in 1998.

History of Regional Guidance 

The Guidelines and national guidance are general in nature and lack some of the specificity appropriate for project-specific evaluations. Under 40 CFR 230.2(c), regional guidance on the implementation of 404(b)(1) Guidelines may be developed by the USEPA in conjunction with the USACE. Prior to the development of this regional guidance manual, no previous guidance for testing dredged material for proposed discharge to the Great Lakes had been developed under this authority.

The USEPA and USACE have used criteria and guidelines based on the physical and chemical properties of dredged material to make decisions about discharges to the Great Lakes since the late 1960's. The "Jensen criteria" were a list of numerical levels for seven sediment physical and chemical parameters to be used in the evaluation of dredging projects in fresh and marine waters. These criteria were disseminated by the USEPA Headquarters in early 1971, prior to the 1972 Clean Water Act.

These "Jensen criteria" were used in the Great Lakes to determine which dredged material required disposal to a confined disposal facility (CDF), constructed under Section 123 of PL 91-611 (Rivers and Harbors and Flood Control Act of 1970). These "criteria" were modified by Region 5, USEPA, in 1974, allowing for a determination based on the collective information and not any single pass-fail number. In 1977, the USEPA, Region 5, published "Interim guidelines for the pollutional classification of Great Lakes harbor sediments" (USEPA 1977). These guidelines expanded the "Jensen criteria" to a system for classifying sediments as non-polluted, moderately polluted, and heavily polluted based on 19 physical and chemical parameters.

In 1982, the Dredging Subcommittee to the Great Lakes Water Quality Board of the International Joint Commission published "Guidelines and register for evaluation of Great Lakes dredging projects" (IJC 1982). This report presented recommendations for evaluation of dredged material which were generally consistent with the 404(b)(1) Guidelines and USEPA's 1980 proposed testing procedures. A tiered testing procedure was recommended, utilizing historical information, sediment chemistry and elutriate testing, and sediment bioassessment. This report stated that "standardized procedures must be developed for conducting bioassays and bioaccumulation studies" and "meaningful criteria must be adopted to evaluate bioassay results".

Dredged material evaluations on the Great Lakes have relied almost entirely on sediment chemical testing for many years, largely because of the lack of standardized biological testing procedures or interpretive guidance. The need for regional guidance on dredged material evaluation and testing, pursuant to 40 CFR 230.2(c) was identified by the USEPA and USACE. A USEPA/USACE task group was formed in 1990 to develop the regional guidance presented in this manual. Between 1991 and 1994, this task group developed detailed testing protocols for chemical and biological evaluation of dredged material specifically for Great Lakes dredged material.

The Great Lakes Dredged Material Testing and Evaluation Manual (GLTEM) was developed in parallel with the "Inland Testing Manual", and is consistent with the approach and procedures of that national guidance. The availability of the draft GLTEM for public review and comment was announced in the Federal Register on December 19, 1994. Approximately 500 copies of the draft were distributed. Comments were received from State agencies, lake user groups, consulting firms and environmental interest groups. A synopsis of the general comments received is provided in the preface of the manual. Between 1994 and 1998, the draft GLTEM has been applied by USACE district offices for evaluating dredged material from Federal navigation projects. This experience has strengthened the USEPA and USACE confidence in the manual, and enabled a number of private laboratories in the region to become proficient in the testing protocols prescribed by the manual.

The GLTEM is now final and ready for use in relevant dredged material evaluations by Section 404 permit applicants as well as USACE districts. The availability of the manual was announced in the Federal Register on December 17, 1998 (Vol 63, No 242).  The USEPA and USACE intend on periodically reviewing the GLTEM guidance and procedures, and will issue additions and amendments, as deemed appropriate. Comments and suggestions on how to improve the maual and the procedures within it are always welcomed.


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