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Contaminated Sediments Program

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Moving Mud - Remediating Great Lakes Contaminated Sediments 


From 1993 through 1996, the Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO) of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) awarded $5,272,711 in grants for 34 projects to 14 State, Tribal, and Federal agencies and educational institutions to address contaminated sediments throughout the Great Lakes. 

The sediment grants program provides funding, technical support, and vessel support to assist contaminated sediment work in priority geographic areas, known as Areas of Concern (AOCs), in the Great Lakes. The 31 AOCs on the U.S. side of the basin are locations where beneficial uses are impaired for any one of 14 designated criteria. To address these beneficial use impairments, each AOC developed a Remedial Action Plan (RAP). All RAPs written to date have identified contaminated bottom sediments as a significant problem that must be addressed to attain beneficial uses. GLNPO’s emphasis and ultimate objective is to foster the remediation of contaminated sediments at these AOCs. The grants program was developed with the intention of continuing the efforts of the Assessment and Remediation of Contaminated Sediments (ARCS) Program, which was administered by GLNPO from 1987 to 1993. 

This document is a synopsis of GLNPO’s sediment grants program. The focus is on the 34 projects that have been initiated since fiscal year 1993. Included is a tabulation of grant recipients and monetary distribution, a summary of each of the projects, and a look ahead to the future of sediment assessment and remediation in the Great Lakes. 

In part because of the 34 projects, significant progress has been made towards the restoration of clean sediments in the Great Lakes: 

GLNPO's Sediment Assessment and Remediation Team has created this document as a yardstick, to measure not only where we have been, but how far we have to go. We congratulate our grantees for the ingenuity and dedication that they have exhibited. We hope that this document not only highlights the great work taking place right now, but serves as a catalyst for new and fresh ideas and a renewed effort to restore clean sediments, one of the building blocks of a healthy and vibrant Great Lakes ecosystem. 


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's commitment to cleaning up contaminated sediments remains strong. Region 5's Agenda for Action lists contaminated sediments as one of six priorities for FY 1996 and 1997. In order to focus on the problem and to continue the work begun under the ARCS Program, GLNPO established the Sediment Assessment and Remediation Team in 1994. The mission of the Team is to reduce and prevent the impacts of contaminated sediments on the Great Lakes ecosystem. 

The Team's goals include the following: 

  1. Perform and provide support for sediment assessments throughout the Great Lakes.
  2. Provide support for sediment-based mass balance modeling activities.
  3. Provide support for sediment-based risk assessments.
  4. Provide technical support toward the selection and implementation of remedial alternatives.
  5. Foster partnerships among Great Lakes stakeholders to promote sediment clean-up activities.
  6. Have an active involvement in the setting of policy and direction for the Great Lakes contaminated sediment program.

In order to accomplish these goals, the Team works cooperatively with States, EPA Regions and other Federal agencies to help address contaminated sediment problems around the Great Lakes basin. We actively coordinate with the Region 5 Sediment Team and RAP and Lakewide Management Plans (LaMPs) activities to ensure resources are brought to bear on the most pressing contaminated sediment problems. 

We have also created a GLNPO Sediment Database, which will contain all of the sediment chemistry, toxicity, and benthos data generated as part of GLNPO-funded projects. The database, built in Microsoft Excel, employs a standard data reporting format for both field and laboratory data. This information will be available for dissemination to anyone interested. 

One of the major resources that GLNPO provides is the services of the R/V Mudpuppy. The R/V Mudpuppy is a 32-foot flat-bottom boat specifically designed for sediment sampling in shallow rivers and harbors. First used during the ARCS Program, the R/V Mudpuppy is now available to grantees for use during their projects, and to date has been used to perform sediment assessments at 19 Great Lakes locations (Figure 1). 


Figure 1. Locations of R/V Mudpuppy Sediment Assessments
Locations of R/V Mudpuppy sediment assessments

The sediment grants program is a major tool used by GLNPO to address contaminated sediments. From 1993 through 1996, the Sediment Assessment and Remediation Team provided $5,272,711 in grants and Interagency Agreements for 34 projects to 14 State, Tribal, and Federal agencies and universities to assess and remediate contaminated sediments throughout the Great Lakes. Helping to bridge the gap between assessment and remediation, our FY 1996 funding included a specific focus on remediation demonstration grants. 

New projects are solicited each year when GLNPO issues to the Great Lakes community a Funding Guidance document which includes a request for preproposals. Contaminated sediments is one of the program areas that is targeted for financial support. Award criteria for sediment grants vary from year to year based on discussions with partners, results of previously-funded activities, and a desire to encourage innovative ideas. As site work progresses and assessments are completed, many AOCs are nearing the remediation phase. In keeping with this, current priorities for potential sediment projects can be considered in the following order: (1) on-the-ground cleanup, (2) remedial design, and (3) field work and assessment. 

Evaluations also consider: 


Key information is provided here about the projects undertaken in the last four years. Summaries of the 34 projects are contained in an appendix, in which the projects are numbered in an alphabetical order based on their location and/or project title. Each summary contains several information categories, which are described and tabulated here. Further inquiries about particular projects can be directly addressed to either the grantee contact or the GLNPO project officer. 

Table 1 contains project information for FY 1995, the last year of full funding. Table 1 shows the number of preproposals received and dollars requested. 


Table 1.  Preproposals, by Requesting Organization, Received by GLNPO for Contaminated Sediments Projects in FY 1995

Tribe Tribe Local
NBS 3 IL  2 Fond du Lac 1 University 8
MN 2
NY 5
OH 2
WI 5
Total 4 20 1 10

Total number of preproposals: 35 
Total dollars requested: $4,714,171 

NBS = National Biological Service (now part of the U.S. Geological Survey
USFWS = United States Fish and Wildlife Service 

Table 2, which also contains information from FY 1995, shows the number of projects actually funded and dollars awarded.

Table 2.  Contaminated Sediments Projects (by Grantee) Funded by GLNPO in MY 1995
Federal Agency   State Agency   Tribe   Local  
NBS 1* IL 1* Fond du Lac 1 University 3
USACE 4** MI 1        
    MN 1        
    NY 1        
    OH 1        
    WI 2        
TOTAL 5   7   1   3

* = NBS and IL funded for same project; counted only once in Total number of projects 
** = Three projects funded to USACE to support work requested by MDEQ; fourth project filled a research gap left by the ARCS Program. 

Total number of projects funded: 15 
Total dollars awarded: $1,985,820 

NBS = National Biological Service (now part of the U.S. Geological Survey) 
USACE = United States Army Corps of Engineers 
MDEQ = Michigan Department of Environmental Quality 

Table 3 gives the number of new projects and total dollar amounts allocated for each of the four years (FY 1993-1996) of the GLNPO sediment grants program. The relatively low number of new projects in FY 1996 reflects the specific focus on remediation demonstration grants which have a higher dollar amount per project. 

FY 1993-1996



Total Dollars
















Table 4 lists all grantees receiving FY 1993-1996 GLNPO sediment funding. 


  1. Fond du Lac Tribe 
  2. Illinois Environmental Protection Agency 
  3. Michigan Department of Environmental Quality 
  4. Michigan State University 
  5. Minnesota Pollution Control Agency 
  6. National Biological Service (now part of the U.S. Geological Survey) 
  7. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 
  8. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation 
  9. Ohio Environmental Protection Agency 
  10. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 
  11. University of Michigan 
  12. University of Minnesota-Duluth 
  13. University of Wisconsin Wisconsin 
  14. Department of Natural Resources

Table 5 displays the distribution of the 34 projects among the 14 recipients. 

Table 5.  Contaminated Sediments Projects (by Grantee)
Funded by GLNPO During FY 1993-1996
  Tribe   Local  
NBS 1* IL 1* Fond du Lac 2 Michigan State University 1
NOAA 1 MI 2     U. of Michigan 1
USACE 8 MN 3     U. of Minnesota-Duluth 1
    NY 4     U. of Wisconsin-Madiso 1
    OH 3        
    WI 6        
TOTALS 10   19   2   4

* = NBS and IL funded for same project; counted only once in Total number of projects 

Total number of projects funded: 34 
Total dollars awarded: $5,272,711 

NBS = National Biological Service (now part of the U.S. Geological Survey) 
NOAA = National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration 
USACE = United States Army Corps of Engineers 

Award Amount 
Table 6 shows the dollar distribution among grantees for FY 1993-1996. Award amounts ranged from $61,463 - $500,000; the average award amount was $155,000. Grantees are required to provide a 5% match; any dollars leveraged above 5% are noted in the project summary. 

Table 6.  GLNPO Assistance Dollars (by Grantee) Allocated for Contaminated Sediments
Projects During FY 1993-1996
  Tribe   Local  
NBS $  40,000 IL $  100,000 Fond du Lac $270,000 Michigan State University $ 96,000
NOAA 148,100 MI 325,000     U. of Michigan 101,353
USACE 873,000 MN 733,000     U. of Minnesota-Duluth 92,000
    NY 641,725     U. of Wisconsin-Madison 61,463
    OH 860,000        
    WI 931,070        








      68%   5%   7%

Total number of projects funded: 34 
Total dollars awarded: $5,272,711 

NBS = National Biological Service (now part of the U.S. Geological Survey) 
NOAA = National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration 
USACE = United States Army Corps of Engineers 

Table 7 shows the distribution of projects and dollar amounts by Great Lakes Basin. 

Table 7.  GLNPO-Funded Contaminated Sediments Projects and Dollars by Great Lakes Basin
During FY 1993-1996
Lake Basin Number of Projects Total Dollars
Ontario 5 $703,188
Erie 12 $2,096,767
Huron 3 $219,816
Michigan 10 $1,124,029
Superior 8 $1,374,763

Note: Projects involving more than one lake basin are included for as many lake basins as applicable. 

Project Timetable 
The average project length is two years. For field projects, the first requirement of the project is creation of a quality assurance project plan (QAPP), which describes in detail the sampling design and laboratory analysis methods. This plan must be approved by sediment and quality assurance personnel from GLNPO. Aside from development of the QAPP, project activities generally include execution of the scope of work (e.g., the actual assessment or remediation), compilation of any data results, and production of a final report. 

Project Location 
Most contaminated sediments projects are local in scope, focusing on a harbor or stretch of river. This is true for 33 of the 34 projects discussed in this document. The exception, project #4, has a Great Lakes Basin-wide scope. 

Many projects involve agencies or groups which act as partners to the grantee by providing technical advice or assisting with activities such as field sampling and data analysis. Table 8 provides a list of these partners. 



Ashtabula River Partnership
City of Toledo 
Clinton River PAC 
Fox River Coalition 
Gencorp, Inc. 
Grand Valley State University 
Great Lakes Protection Fund 
Heidelberg College 
Maumee RAP Group/Team 
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality 
Ohio Environmental Protection Agency
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute 
Sediment Contamination Workgroup of the
   St. Louis River RAP 
University of Minnesota-Duluth 
University of Wisconsin Department of Civil
   and Environmental Engineering 
University of Wisconsin Sea Grant 
University of Wisconsin-Superior 
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District 
USEPA Region 5 
White Lake PAC 
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources 

Each summary contains a brief descriptive section which provides background information, highlights the purpose of the project, and often states the project goals and objectives. 

Table 9 shows the projects, represented by project #, grouped into five categories based on the type of work performed. Because sediment contamination at many AOCs was uncharacterized when the funding program started, the first few years have been dominated by assessment projects. Beginning in FY 1996 with the addition of the two remediation projects, we expect the ratio of assessment:remediation projects to continue to decrease in the coming years as AOCs are characterized and actions move toward remediation. 



Assessment 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 24, 25, 27, 28, 31, 32, 33, 34  

Bench Scale/ Treatability and Feasibility  29  

Data Management 23  

Remediation 1, 22  

Technical Research,  Remedial Design, or Development 4, 8, 11, 26, 30 

Data Results 
Twenty-five of the thirty-four projects include field sampling in their scope of work. For these 25 projects, a synopsis of the current state of the data results is provided. When the data results have been finalized, they are sent to the GLNPO Sediment Team and entered into the GLNPO Sediment Database, which will contain all of the sediment chemistry, toxicity, and benthos data generated as part of GLNPO-funded projects. 
The data is then made available for dissemination to any interested parties. 

Environmental Results/Products 
Table 10 lists some of the environmental results and publications produced from the projects.  TABLE 10. PARTIAL LIST OF ENVIRONMENTAL RESULTS AND PRODUCTS FROM SEDIMENT PROJECTS, FY 1993-1996. 

Realized and anticipated results of the funded projects include:  

Documents produced to date include:  


As our funding program has moved forward, discussions with our grantees have yielded valuable information as to what some of the hurdles are for remediation of contaminated sediments and restoration of a clean benthic environment. While assessments at several AOCs have been completed, the move to the next steps - remedial design and actual remediation, or `moving mud'- has not been easy. We recognize these difficulties and have focused our efforts on providing assistance in order to bridge these gaps. 

We believe that one of the primary keys to achieving successful remediation at any site will be the development of a strong and committed partnership of stakeholders. These individuals and organizations must be able to pool their resources and expertise as well as cooperate to overcome their differences. The Ashtabula River Partnership is a prime example of how a community has organized itself around a common goal of contaminated sediment remediation. We are encouraged by their dedicated efforts thus far, and we hope to soon see many other communities following their lead. 

Recommendations for Future Efforts 
GLNPO's Sediment Assessment and Remediation Team recommends that these goals be focused on in the future to address the contaminated sediment problem in the Great Lakes: 

Much progress has been made since the inception of the ARCS Program 10 years ago. Anticipating the next 10 years, we look forward to supporting the continuing and renewed efforts of our grantees as we all strive to reduce and prevent the impacts of contaminated sediments on the Great Lakes ecosystem. 

As our grants program continues and our database expands, we want to make sure we remain on the right track. Feedback from our partners and from the community is invaluable in helping us to do this. What are your thoughts and opinions about GLNPO's Contaminated Sediments Program? What questions do you have? How can the program be improved? 

We urge you to communicate with us. 

Access our World Wide Web site: http://www.epa.gov/glnpo/  or contact:

Marc Tuchman, Sediment Assessment and Remediation Team Leader: 
Tel:  (312) 353-1369 
Fax: (312) 353-2018 


  1. Clean Water Act. 1977.
  2. Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments. 1972.
  3. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. 1978, and 1987 Protocol.
  4. Lake Michigan Federation. Cleaning Up Contaminated Sediments: A Citizen's Guide. 1995.
  5. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Assessment and Remediation of Contaminated Sediments (ARCS) Program - Final Summary Report. 1994.
  6. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. EPA's Contaminated Sediment Management Strategy. 1994.
  7. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Great Lakes Contaminated Sediment Strategy Workshop Proceedings. 1995.
  8. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Region 5 Agenda for Action. 1996.
  9. Water Quality Act of 1987.


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