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Ocean Disposal Sites

EPA is responsible for designating and managing ocean dumping sites under the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA). All but one of the currently designated ocean sites are for disposal of dredged material permitted or authorized under the MPRSA. Many of these ocean disposal sites are located offshore of major ports and harbors nationwide. There is currently one EPA-designated ocean site for the disposal of fish processing wastes off American Samoa. Designated ocean disposal sites are selected to minimize the risk of potentially adverse impacts of the disposed material on human health and the marine environment.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) either conducts or issues permits associated withLoading a barge with dredged material.Loading dredged material into a barge.
all of the underwater dredging in the United States. Ocean disposal of dredged material
requires use of an EPA designated ocean dredged material disposal site (ODMDS) to the greatest extent feasible. EPA's ocean dumping regulations provide the criteria and procedures for the designation and management of ODMDSs. Learn more about how ocean disposal sites are designated.

As of December 2016, EPA’s Ocean Dumping Program manages 99 designated ocean disposal sites. The number of ocean disposal sites may vary slightly from year to year as EPA designates a new site or cancels (or de-designates) a site that is no longer needed. Learn more about these ocean disposal sites and where they are located.

Ocean Disposal Site Management and Monitoring Plans

All designated sites are required to have a site management and
monitoring plan (SMMP). For dredged material, EPA together withsea ottersCourtesy of Eric Vance. USACE is responsible for developing, and providing an opportunity for public comment on, an SMMP for each ocean dredged material disposal site. Each SMMP includes the following, but may not be limited to:

  • a baseline assessment of site conditions;
  • a program for monitoring the site;
  • special management conditions or practices to be implemented at each site that are necessary for protection of the environment;
  • consideration of the quantity of disposed materials, and the presence, nature and bioavailability of the contaminants in the material;
  • consideration of the anticipated long term use of the site; and
  • a schedule for review and revision of the SMMP.

Management of ocean disposal sites ensures that disposal activities will not unreasonably degrade or EPA's Ocean Dumping team aboard an ocean disposal site monitoring survey.endanger human health, welfare, the marine environment or economic potentialities. Management of the ocean disposal sites involves:

  • regulating the times, quantity and physical/chemical characteristics of disposed material;
  • establishing disposal controls, conditions and requirements to avoid and minimize potential impacts to the marine environment; and
  • monitoring the site and surrounding environment to verify that unanticipated or significant adverse effects are not occurring from past or continued use of the ocean disposal site and that terms of the MPRSA permit are met.

Learn more about ocean disposal of dredged material: