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Great Lakes Dredged Material Testing & Evaluation Manual

Great Lakes Dredged Material Testing & Evaluation Manual - What's In It?

Download the Manual

The Great Lakes Dredged Material Testing & Evaluation Manual is available to view or download as set of .pdf files. Pertinent information on the manual and appendices are provided below. Note that a few figures are not yet available in digital form.

The main text (50 pages) begins with background information on dredged material management regulations, and the role of testing and evaluation in decision making. The bulk of the main text is dedicated to an explanation of the tiered approach for testing dredged material, points at which decisions can be made, and examples of how to apply the manual. Appendices A and B are simply lists of acronyms and definitions of terms used in the manual and other Appendices. Appendices C provides references and other information needed for Tier 1 and 2 analysis. Appendix D provides general guidance on sampling and handling procedures suitable for use in collecting dredged material from Great Lakes sites. Appendix E provides general guidance on quality assurance, and minimum QA requirements for dredged material testing and evaluation in accordance with this manual. Appendix F provides detailed analytical procedures for physical and chemical analysis of dredged material and water/elutriate samples. Appendix G provides detailed analytical procedures for three elutriate-phase toxicity tests, two whole sediment toxicity tests, and one bioacculuation test.

Testing Teirs

Testing Tiers

The manual utilizes a tiered approach for testing and evaluation, which is consistent with the national manuals developed for testing dredged material proposed for discharge in inland waters (USEPA/USACE, 1998) and ocean disposal (USEPA/USACE, 1991). This tiered approach is also generally consistent with the "Guidelines for project evaluation" developed by the International Joint Commission for the Great Lakes (IJC 1982).

The objective of the tiered testing approach is to make optimal use of resources in generating the information necessary to make a contaminant determination, using an integrated chemical, physical, and biological approach. To achieve this objective, the procedures in this manual are arranged in a series of tiers with increasing levels of intensity. The initial tier uses available information that may be sufficient for completing the evaluation in some cases. Evaluation at successive tiers requires information from tests of increasing sophistication and cost.

The most logical and cost efficient approach is to enter Tier 1 and proceed as far as necessary to make a determination. There are two possible conclusions that can be made at each of the first three tiers:

  1. available information is not sufficient to make a contaminant determination, or
  2. available information is sufficient to make a contaminant determination.

Where information is sufficient (conclusion 1), one of the following determinations may be reached:

Tier 1 compiles existing information about the potential for contamination in the proposed dredged material. Disposal operations that are excluded from testing or have historic data sufficient for the contaminant determination may proceed to a determination without additional testing. The manual identifies sources of historical sediment data, lists industries and activities associated with sediment contamination, and provides examples of cases where testing is and is not needed.

Tier 2 evaluates the potential impacts of the proposed discharge on water column and benthic environments using sediment physical and chemical data collected for this tier, and applied with computer models to project worst-case conditions for water quality impacts and bioaccumulation. The manual provides detailed guidance on acceptable analytical procedures for physical and chemical analysis of the parameters shown below. Based on the results of Tier 2 evaluations, additional testing may be reduced or eliminated.

Arsenic Total organic carbon (TOC)
Cadmium Total volatile solids (TVS)
Chromium Total phosphorous
Copper Ammonia-nitrogen
Lead Total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH)
Mercury Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)

Tier 3 evaluates the potential impacts of the proposed discharge on water column and benthic environments using effects-based biological testing. The manual presents recommended procedures for biological-effects tests developed specifically for use in the Great Lakes Basin. The features of these tests are summarized below. Not all tests endpoints have been approved for Tier 3 application.

Species Medium Endpoint(s) Test Duration (days)
Daphnia magna Elutriate Survival/Survival and reproduction 2/21
Ceriodaphnia dubia Elutriate Survival/Survival and Reproduction 2/7
Pimephales promelas Elutriate Survival/Survival and Growth 4/7
Chironomus tentans Sediment Survival and Growth 10
Hyalella azteca Sediment Survival and Growth 10
Lumbriculus variegatus Sediment Bioaccumulation 28

Tier 4 is only entered if the information provided by Tiers 1 through 3 is not sufficient to make a contaminant determination. The procedures used in Tier 4 are keyed to site specific issues not resolved by the standardized procedures of earlier tiers. It is intended that very few situations will require a Tier 4 evaluation.

With this tiered testing structure, it is not necessary to obtain data for all tiers to make a contaminant determination. It may also not be necessary to conduct every test described within a given tier to have sufficient information for a determination. The underlying philosophy is that only that data necessary for a determination should be acquired.


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