Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center






Contaminated sediment has become a major concern at many sites throughout the United States and the world. Persistent toxic contaminants have accumulated in sediments from both point and non-point sources including industrial and municipal waste. This page contains a brief summary of processes related to contaminated sediment management as well as links to Navy Policy and guidance and other valuable resources available for assessing contaminated sediment sites and implementing remedial response actions.






Sediment contamination can occur directly (i.e., from a spill or historical release) or indirectly (i.e., due to runoff from upland or upstream sources). The most common types of sediment contamination include organic compounds (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons [PAHs], polychlorinated biphenyls [PCBs], pesticides, dioxins, volatile organic compounds [VOCs], petroleum hydrocarbons, butyltins) and inorganic compounds (metals).

The first step in evaluating a sediment site is to characterize the site by collecting site-specific field data. The site characterization process at Navy sites with contaminated sediments typically follows Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) guidance. As part of the Preliminary Assessment (PA)/Site Investigation (SI) and Remedial Investigation (RI)/Feasibility Study (FS) phases of the CERCLA process, sediment is studied and analyzed to determine its physical and chemical characteristics, the nature and extent of any contamination, the fate and transport of contaminants, and potential risk to ecological and human receptors through a variety of possible exposure pathways.

For more information on sediment sampling, characterization, and risk assessment: Visit the Sediment Sampling Webpage


Estimated risks are generally the basis for decisions about how to manage contaminated sediments. Depending on the magnitude of the risk, several options will be evaluated during the RI/FS phase ranging from active remediation (removal or treatment) to allowing the system to recover naturally. The screening process eliminates remedial action technologies and process options that are inappropriate or infeasible for the sediment at a particular site. Process options that are retained after screening are combined into potential remedial alternatives for the site.

For more information on sediment remediation technologies: Visit the Sediment Remediation Webpage


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T2 Tools (Technology Transfer (T2) Informational Tools)



  T2 Tools  

Benthic Flux Sampling Device Overview Tool

The magnitude of contaminant transport across the sediment water interface plays an important role in assessing the potential risks from contaminated sediments. This tool describes the use of a benthic flux sampling device to measure the exchange of compounds across the sediment water interface


Print/Text Version

Coastal Contamination Migration Overview Tool

This tool describes two innovative technologies for monitoring contaminant migration from groundwater to coastal surface water. The technologies provide a direct measurement of groundwater discharge rates and chemical loading rates, offering a significant improvement over the use of uncertain predictions from modeling based on terrestrial monitoring well results.


Print/Text Version

Contaminated Sediment Overview Tool

This tool provides an overview of the key technical and policy issues for Navy Remedial Project Managers (RPMs) to consider when managing contaminated sediment sites.

Print/Text Version

PAH/PCB Fingerprinting Tool

This tool reviews how to implement ACF, its advantages and limitations, and when it is appropriate to use. The specific application of ACF for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination in sediments is then discussed in more detail.

Print/Text Version

Sediment Monitored Natural Recovery (MNR) Tool

This tool provides an overview of how MNR proceeds through various chemical, physical, and biological processes that occur at contaminated sediment sites during monitored natural recovery.

Print/Text Version

Sediment Remedy Effectiveness Tool

This tool provides an overview of sediment remedial technologies including: environmental dredging, in-situ capping, and monitored natural recovery (MNR). Suitable site conditions, design considerations, pros, cons, and typical effectiveness are discussed.

Print/Text Version



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     Policy & Guidance            Publications             RITS             Related Sites    



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Policy and Guidance

Topics Title and Description

Monitoring Strategies


DON Guidance for Planning and Optimizing Monitoring Strategies: Chapter 6 Contaminated Sediments, Rev. 1 ,(Nov 2010)

This guidance document provides Navy RPMs with comprehensive information for optimizing monitoring programs at remediation sites.

Contaminated Sediment

Contaminated Sediment Remediation Guidance for Hazardous Waste Sites, U.S. EPA Office of Solide Waste and Emergiency Response (OSWER) (December 2005)

Provides a thorough overview of methods that can be used to reduce risk caused by contaminated sediment.

Contaminated Sdiments

Sediment: Implementation Guide for Assessing and Managing Contaminated Sediment at Navy Facilities, Rev. 2, (January 2005)

Presents guidelines for conducting sediment site assessments and remedial alternative evaluations within the Navy’s Environmental Restoration program.

Habitat Restoration
Monitoring Framework

DON Guidance for Habitat Restoration Monitoring: Framework for Monitoring Plan Development and Implementation (August 2004)

Presents a framework for developing and implementing technically defensible monitoring plans for habitat restoration projects associated with Department of Navy (Navy) Installation Restoration Program (IRP) sites undergoing remediation in compliance with CERCLA. This guidance is also applicable to sites where habitat restoration activities are being considered to address natural resource injuries that may have occurred as a result of past or ongoing Navy activities.

Environmental Background Chemical Levels
Navy Policy

Navy Policy on the Use of Background Chemical Levels CNO letter 5090 Ser N45C/N4U732212 (January 2004 )

This policy clarifies the Navy’s position on consideration of background chemicals as it applies to the Navy Environmental Restoration Program and clarifies the Navy’s interpretation of U.S. EPA’s “Role of Background in the CERCLA Cleanup Program, April 2002.”

Environmental Background Analysis for Sediments

NAVFAC Guidance for Environmental Background Analysis: Volume II Sediment, NFESC UG-2054-ENV (April 2003)

Provides instructions for characterizing background conditions in sediments at sites where past uses of the property have resulted in actual or suspected chemical releases.

Contaminated Sediments

Contaminated Sediments at Navy Facilities: Policy, Guidance, and Characterization (December 2002)

Addressing contaminated sediments at Naval facilities presents significant technical and magerial challenges. This TechData Sheet, based on the presentation given at RITS Spring 2002, provides a handy reference to CNO and NAVFAC guidance regarding contaminated sediment.


Sediment Site Investigation
DON Policy
Watershed Contaminated Source Document

DON Policy on Sediment Site Investigation and Response Action, CNO 5090 Ser N453E/2U589601 (8 February, 2002)

This policy specifies that, for investigation and cleanup of contaminated sediments, the source of contaminants must be identified and controlled before cleanup, the cleanup must be risk-based and have site-specific cleanup goals, and the monitoring criteria for any monitoring plan must be established before samples are collected. This policy introduces the Watershed Contaminated Source Document (WCSD) concept.




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Topics Title and Description
Passive Sampling 

Passive Sampling Fact Sheet (September 2018)

This fact sheet provides an overview of the types of passive samplers available., along with preparaton and deployment considerations. Key data analysis steps are highlighted related to extraction and analysis and the interpretation of results related to the calculation of water concentrations , mass transfer models, quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC), and bioaccumulation prediction.  

in situ


ESTCP-200825 In Situ Wetland Restoration Demonstration Final Report (September 2016)

This Final Report describes the details of Environmental Security Technology Certification Program Project ER-200825: In Situ Wetland Restoration Demonstration. The overall objective was to field demonstrate and validate activated carbon (AC) in situ wetland remediation technologies which have been designed to sequester contaminants in wetlands without adversely impacting system ecology. The Field Demonstration was performed at Canal Creek, Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG), Aberdeen, Maryland.

reactive capping

Sediment Reactive Capping Fact Sheet (March 2016)

This interactive fact sheet provides an overview of reactive capping as an emerging contaminated sediment remediation approach.

Sediment Remediation

Sustainable Remediation

Sustainable Sediment Remediation White Paper (Sept 2015)

This white paper provides a connection between existing DON Optimization/GSR guidance and DON Guidance pertaining to sediment sites. It serves to introduce a new version of SiteWise that has been developed to integrate sediment-specific remedial activities.




Short Term Performance of an Activated Carbon Amendment to Reduce PCB Bioavailability at an Active Naval Shipyard: Interim Report (August 2014)

The objective of this project is to demonstrate and validate the placement, stability, and performance of reactive amendments for treatment of contaminated sediments in active Department of Defense (DoD) harbor settings. This project extends current pilot-scale testing of the application of activated carbon (AC) to decrease the bioavailability of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in contaminated sediment to near full-scale demonstration under realistic conditions at an active DoD harbor site.


Five-year reviews

EPA Memorandum: Groundwater Forum Issue Paper, Groundwater Technical Considerations during the Five-Year Review Process (May 2015)



Five-year reviews

EPA Groundwater Forum Issue Paper: Groundwater Technical Considerations During the Five-Year Review Process (April 2015)




ESTCP ER-0716 Improving Effectiveness of Bioremediation at DNAPL Source Zones by Applying Partitioning Electron Donors (PEDs) (May 2014)

Enhanced In situ bioremediation (EISB) can be a low-cost approach for accelerating remediation timelines at sites impacted with dense non-aqueous phase liquids (DNAPLs) such as trichloroethene (TCE) and tetrachloroethene (PCE). EISB typically relies on the addition of electron donor formulations to enhance the rate of dissolution and reductive dechlorination.

The objectives of the field demonstration/validation (DEM/VAL) included: 1.)Demonstrate application of the PED technology at field scale, assess the ability to distribute PED within the source area and enhance biodegradation; 2.) Validate the enhanced performance and efficiency of DNAPL dissolution and dechlorination following the injection of a PED. 3.) Collect cost and performance data for the application of PEDs for source zone bioremediation and provide reliable technical data relevant to field-scale implementation of the PED technology, including documentation of the expected reduction in duration and cost of remediation of DNAPL source sites.

Conceptual Site Model (CSM);
pathways-contaminant migration;

CSM Checklist - Sediment, NAVFAC ESC (14 Jan 2013)


PCB Contamination

PCB - A Handbook for Determining the Sources of PCB Contamination in Sediments, NAVFAC EXWC, TR-NAVFAC EXWC-EV-1302 (30 October 2012)


Reactive Capping Mat

Reactive Capping Mat Development and Evaluation For Sequestering Contaminants in Sediment, SERDP ER-1493, (Aug 2011)

A reactive geotextile mat system was developed to serve as a chemically effective, mechanically stable, and cost efficient technology for reducing ecological risks by sequestering contaminants in sediment while simultaneously allowing both groundwater flux and surficial biological colonization.

Reactive Capping Mat

Reactive Capping Mat Development and Evaluation for Sequestering Contaminants in Sediment APPENDICES, SERDP ER-1493,  (Aug 2011)

Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) Project Number ER-1493 (Reactive Capping Mat Development and Evaluation for Sequestering contaminants in Sediment) Report Appendices.

Sediment Transport

User’s Guide for Assessing Sediment Transport at Navy Facilities (Sep 2007)

Provides the latest guidance on evaluating sediment transport at contaminated sediment sites anddescribes how to use sediment transport information to support sediment management decisions.

Sediment Contamination Sources

User’s Guide for Determining the Sources of Contaminants in Sediments SPAWAR TR-1907 (Sep 2003)

Provides a guide for Navy RPMs to defensibly describe and determine the nature, extent, and source(s) of anthropogenic contamination in sediments near existing or former naval facilities. This guide includes a step-by-step description of the investigative process and Section 2 provides a demonstration study on determining the source(s) of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in sediments of the Elizabeth River.

Watershed Contaminated Source Document (WCSD)

Watershed Contaminated Source Document (WCSD) Fact Sheet, Chief Of Naval Operations (CNO) N45 (March 2003)

This factsheet explains what a Watershed Contaminated Source Document (WCSD) is, when it is necessary, what it contains, and how it can be used to better understand the numerous contaminant sources potentially impacting Navy sediment sites.

Sediment Pore Water Toxicity Identification Evaluation (TIE)

Sediment: Guide for Planning and Conducting Sediment Pore Water Toxicity Identification Evaluations (TIE) to Determine Causes of Acute Toxicity at Navy Aquatic Sites,  (March 2003)

This guide provides info on determining applicability of Toxicity Identification Evaluation (TIE) at IR site; data requirements; SOPs for running the TIE, and how to do data analysis.

Sediment TIE
Remediation Goals
Aquatic Habitats

Sediment: Using Sediment Toxicity Identification Evaluations to Improve the Development of Remedial Goals for Aquatic Habitats (March 2003)

Summarizes the Toxicity Identification Evaluation (TIE) Guide (UG-2052-ENV) and provides information to RPMs on when to consider using TIEs within the installation restoration process.

contaminated sediments;
cleanup alternatives;
sediment remediation

Contaminated Sediments at Navy Facilities: Cleanup Alternatives - NAVFAC TDS-2092-ENV (December 2002)

Based on the presentation given on this subject at the RITS Spring 2002 offering, here is a summary of advances in sediment cleanup alternatives.

Preliminary Remedation Goals (PRG);
Human Health Risk
Assessment (HHRA);
Ecological Risk Assessment (ERA);
aquatic sites

Example Approach for the Development of Site-Specific Preliminary Remediation Goals for Protection of Ecological and Human Health at Navy Aquatic Sites (March 2001)

Case study demonstrating methodology for establishing preliminary remediation goals for sediment sites based on human health and ecological risk concerns.

sediment toxicity;
confounding factors;
false positives;
risk assessment;

Confounding Factors in Sediment Toxicology, NAVFAC Risk Assessment Workgroup Issue Paper (October 2000)

Issue paper from SPAWAR Systems Center and MEC Analytical Systems identifies and discusses ways to avoid confounding factors associated with sediment toxicity tests.

Marine Sediments
Pore Water
Ordnance compounds

Toxicity of Marine Sediments and Pore Waters Spiked with Ordnance Compounds (August 2000)

The study was undertaken to help quantify the potential effects of sediment contamination with ordnance compounds to the benthic biota. This was achieved by conducting toxicity tests with sediment spiked with ordnance compounds.

biological endpoints;
marine sediment;
ordnance compounds;
Toxicity Identification Evaluation (TIE);

Development of Marine Sediment Toxicity Data for Ordnance Compounds and Toxicity Identification Evaluation Studies at Select Naval Facilities (August 2000)

Summary of toxicity identification studies for ordnance compounds in marine sediment.





Sediment Characterization
Ecological Risk Assessment

Rapid Sediment Characterization (RSC) Tools for Ecological Risk Assessment, NAVFAC Risk Assessment Workgroup Issue Paper (June 2011)

This Risk Assessment Workgroup (RAW) issue paper from SSC discusses the various RSC Tools available to assist in Conducting ERAs and Characterizing sediment sites.

Rapid Sediment Characterization (RSC)
Ecological Risk Assessments (ERA)

Guide for Using Rapid Sediment Characterization Methods in Ecological Risk Assessments, (June 2001)

Provides information on four analytical methods for quick and cost-effective characterization of contaminated sediments at marine sites.

Sediment Characterization

Rapid Sediment Characterization of PCBs with ELISA. An Immunoassay Technique, A Rapid Sediment Characterization (RSC) Tool (June 2001)

A Tech Data Sheet (TDS) on Rapid Sediment Characterization (RSC) of PCBs with ELISA. Applicability of PCB immunoassay test kits for the screening of PCBs in sediment samples.

X-ray Fluoresence

Rapid Characterization of Metals in Sediments Using X-Ray Fluorescence Technology, Field-Portable XRF: A Rapid Sediment Characterization (RSC) Tool (February 2000)

Commercially available, portable XRF analytical instrument can provide rapid screening of multi-element analysis of metals in sediment.


QwikSed - A Bioluminescent Sediment Toxicity Test (February, 2000)

A rapid and cost effective bioassay system for conducting contaminated sediment toxicity test

UV Fluorescence

Marine Sediments

Near-Real Time UV Fluorescence Technique for Characterization of PAHs in Marine Sediment, A Rapid Sediment Characterization (RSC) Tool (February, 2000)

UV Fluorescence (VF) spectroscopy is a screening technique that can be used to rapidly estimate total polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon levels in sediments.




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Topics Title and Description Pages Size (KB)



sampling depth

ecological risk assessment

Determination of the Biologically Relevant Sampling Depth for Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecological Risk Assessments Final Report, EPA (October 2015)

This technical paper provides defensible approximations for what the depth of the biologically active zone, or “biotic zone” is within certain environments.

75 2000


climate change

Climate Change Adaptation Technical Fact Sheet, EPA (April 2015)

The plan examines how EPA programs may be vulnerable to a changing climate and how the Agency can accordingly adapt in order to continue meeting its mission of protecting human health and the environment.

8 869

sediment erosion

sediment deposition

Technical Guidelines on Performing a Sediment Erosion and Deposition Assessment at Superfund Sites, USACE (September 2014)

This report outlines processes influencing sediment transport and describes methods to use in developing a Sediment Erosion and Deposition Assessment (SEDA) at a site designated as a Superfund site. A SEDA is a complex procedure that overlaps multiple disciplines. Processes and properties that should be assessed include sediment characteristics, groundwater movement, surface water stresses, sediment loadings, anthropogenic activity, and weather and oceanographic influences. Historical data can also provide a long-term record on evolution of the system, which is not only critical in assessing sediment erodibility, but will also support conceptual site model development.

183 8,944

remedy selection


Contaminated Sediments Remediation, Remedy Selection for Contaminated Sediments, ITRC (August 2014)

The purpose of this guidance document is to help site managers select effective contaminated sedimentremediation technologies (and an eventual comprehensive remedy) based on site-specific physical, sediment, contaminant, and land and waterway use characteristics. Additionally, this guidance discusses remedy evaluation parameters that include factors such as cost and stakeholder concerns. Although this guidance focuses on evaluating remedial technologies, it may also be used during site characterization to help ensure that the site data necessary to evaluate remedial technologies are collected.

514 5,261

Monitored Natural Recovery


Technical Resource Document on Monitored Natural Recovery, EPA  (April 2014)

The goal of this document is to present natural physical, chemical, and biological processes that contribute to the recovery of contaminated sediments and to present methods that may be used to quantify and assess those processes at sites. The number and extent of technical tools that should be used for evaluating the appropriateness of MNR at contaminated sediment sites will be influenced by the size/magnitude and complexity of the site, project resources, available data, and the types and scopes of decisions to be made.

251 3,266


In Situ remediation

Use of Amendments for In Situ Remediation at Superfund Sediment Sites, EPA OSWER Directive 9200.2-128FS (April 2013)

The purpose of this document is to introduce the most promising amendments for in situ remediation of sediments and summarize some of the information on contaminated sediment sites that have already employed these amendments.

61 605

Monitored Natural Recovery


ESTCP Technical Guide for Monitored Natural Recovery at Contaminated Sediment Sites, ESTCP Project ER-0622 (May 2009)

This document provides a technical guide for project managers and management teams evaluating and implementing monitored natural recovery (MNR) at contaminated sediment sites.

276 4,563

Contaminated Sediments

Technical Guidelines for Environmental Dredging of Contaminated Sediment, USACE (September 2008)

This report provides technical guidelines for evaluating environmental dredging as a sediment remedy component. This document supports the Contaminated Sediment Remediation Guidance for Hazardous Waste Sites, released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) in 2005, by providing detailed information regarding evaluation of environmental dredging as a remedy component. This document is intended to be applicable to contaminated sediment sites evaluated under various environmental laws and regulatory programs.

302 4955
Surface Water
Transition Zones
Ecological Risk Assessment

ECO Update/Ground Water Forum Issue Paper: Evaluating Ground-Water/Surface-Water Transition Zones in Ecological Risk Assessments, EPA  (July 2008)

The purpose of the ERA within the risk assessment process is to identify and characterize the current and potential threats to the environment from a hazardous substance release, evaluate the ecological impacts of alternative remediation strategies, and establish cleanup levels in the selected remedy that will protect those natural resources at risk.

30 1086


The Four Rs of Environmental Dredging: Resuspension, Release, Residual, and Risk, USACE (January 2008)

This technical report summarizes analysis and synthesis of the results of the four Rs workshop.The goals of the workshop were to promote consistency in the terms used to define the challenges represented by the four Rs, develop consensus for a conceptual model that relates the relevant processes, identify current resources and needs regarding data and methods/models to better describe and understand the processes, and identify key uncertainties and make recommendations regarding future research to resolve those uncertainties.

64 635


Surface Water


Field Techniques for Estimating Water Fluxes Between Surface Water and Groundwater, USGS (2008)

This report is designed to make the reader aware of the breadth of approaches available for the study of the exchange between surface and ground water. This report focuses on measuring the flow of water across the interface between surface water and ground water, rather than the hydrogeological or geochemical processes that occur at or near this interface.

135 86,224

Contaminated Sediments

A Compendium of Chemical, Physical and Biological Methods for Assessing and Monitoring the Remediation of Contaminated Sediment Sites (February 2003)

This document summarizes many of the published methods related to the characterization of contaminated sediments and contaminated sediment sites.

291 2307
Interactive Sediment Remedy Assessment Portal (ISRAP)

Federal Remediation Technologies Roundtable (FRTR) Presentation on Interactive Sediment Remedy Assessment Portal (ISRAP)


28 1629



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RITS - Remediation Innovative Technology Seminars & Open Environmental Restoration Resource (OER2) Webinars

Topics Title and Description Pages Size (KB)



OER2 Webinar: Environmental Background Analysis Review and Case Study of Apra Harbor Sediments at Naval Base Guam  - Presentation(September 2015)

The presentation provided an overview of the Navy Background policy and NAVFAC guidance related to Environmental Background Analysis (EBA) for Sediment, EBA technical and scientific principles, and application of EBA to data collected for the Apra Harbor Sediment Remedial Investigation.

44 1,398



OER2 Webinar: Environmental Background Analysis Review and Case Study of Apra Harbor Sediments at Naval Base Guam  - Recording(September 2015)


55 min 51,974

Passive Sampling


Passive Sampling Techniques for Groundwater and Sediment Sites (RITS 2013)
Introduces the various types of passive samplers for groundwater and sediments. Includes strategies for incorporating groundwater passive samplers into on-going projects.

79 9,440



Advances in Sediment Characterization and Remediation (RITS 2013)

Shares recent experiences at actual ssediment sites and discusses innovative approaches for contaminated sediment management.

89 1,140


Environmental Forensics


Applying Environmental Forensics to Identify PCB Sources at Contaminated Sediment Sites (RITS 2012)

Discusses how to determine if a PCB environmental forensic investigation would be of value at your site and describes the technical methods and procedures for conducting the forensic investigation.

84 1,100


Cleanup goals

Establishing Smart Sediment Cleanup Goals (RITS 2010)
Describes the process of developing science-based sediment cleanup goals.
83 1,030



Managing Sediment Sites Using Navy Policy and Guidance (RITS 2010)
An overview of key Navy policies and guidance associated with sediment sites.

55 6,380




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Related Sites

Topics Title and Description Sponsor

Contaminated Sediments


Interstate Technology & Regulatory Council (ITRC) Contaminated Sediments Team



Contaminated Sediments


U.S. EPA Contaminated Sediments in Superfund




EPA Guidance

U.S. EPA Guidance Documents, Fact Sheets, and Policies for Sediments



ISRAP Website


U.S. Navy SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific Interactive Sediment Remedy Assessment Portal (ISRAP)



Contaminated Sediments


Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) - Contaminated Sediments



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