Proceedings of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Sediment Workshop, February 4-7, 1997


Timothy J. Kubiak
National Water Quality Coordinator
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Division of Environmental Contaminants
4401 N. Fairfax Drive
Arlington, Virginia 22203

The unmet challenge resource managers continue to face is developing consensus on defining ecological health and evaluating impacts from contaminated sediments and waters by assessment of biological communities at risk or affected by pollutants. We are charged with this responsibility under a variety of Federal and State natural resource management statutes to effectively manage the nation's water resources. The Federal Clean Water Act exemplifies WHAT needs to be done since it clearly defines goals which embrace this topic and form the basis for how society copes with what is a most complex challenge " restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters." There are two important messages in this that forms the basis for HOW we need to address the issue of contaminated sediments. First, we must continue to progress past managing water quality as if plate glass separated the sediment-water interface. Second, we must be far more insightful in developing biologically and ecologically relevant methods for defining and assessing contaminated sediments.

The link between contaminants and assessment methodologies for development of an ecologically relevant decision making paradigm requires that we take a consensus approach to address WHO should be involved. Clearly, today's meeting on contaminated sediments indicates that the collective expertise, responsibilities and desire to work cooperatively on research needs exists to address this issue. Representing a research needs process within the Federal establishment generally, and in the new USGS organization specifically, requires that the focus of the research address management needs for: 1) pollution prevention and control for public health and the environment; 2) population maintenance, restoration and safe human consumption of aquatic species and wildlife; and 3) navigation, irrigation, and other project development, facility and maintenance activities.

USGS and other Federal agencies should consider the following general needs in the development of a detailed contaminated sediments research strategy:

  1. Conduct all research within the framework of a multi-agency needs process where a consensus is reached on: A) research responsibilities among agencies; B) how the research strategy will fill knowledge gaps for action and preventing "analysis paralysis" (i.e. research for the sake of research); and C) articulate how the research product(s) will meet the identified management need and assist in timely goal attainment by resource managers and regulators.
  2. Conduct an ongoing dialogue with the Service and others that focuses risk based or effects-based research on problem pollutants in sediments. Provide ecologically relevant characterizations of multiple pathways that protects the most sensitive species through identification of the critical toxic endpoint, measure and protective level of exposure and critical contaminant pathway regardless of trophic level;
  3. Assist the Service and EPA in the integration of scientifically defensible sediment quality criteria into water quality criteria and state water quality standards to assist all agencies and the Tribal governments in fulfilling their collective and individual responsibilities under the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and related Federal Statutes and State counterpart legislation;
  4. Improve quantitative understanding for toxicological assessment purposes and modeling of sediment/water/biotic and trophic level interrelationships associated with functional toxicity of pollutant classes (e.g., mutagenicity and carcinogenicity of polyaromatic hydrocarbons, reproductive and teratogenic effects of dioxin-like halogenated compounds, endocrine system disruption from multiple compounds, etc.);
  5. Assist in the development of scientifically defensible guidance and assessment methodologies for making decisions about various activities and management requirements which are affected by the presence of sediments with multiple contaminants; and
  6. Assist in establishing guidance for sediment loading management and disposal requirements associated with water quality management. Topically, address water quality limited segments (those bodies of water with water quality standards violations) and the sediment relationship to total mass pollutant loadings for problem parameters, especially persistent pollutants, to support total maximum daily load allocation decisions.

Workshop Proceedings
Contributions from Other Federal Agencies
Contribution from the USGS