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Hazard ranking of contaminated sediments based on chemical analysis, laboratory toxicity tests, and benthic community composition: Prioritizing sites for remedial action

January 1, 1996

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) organized a research program to assess the extent of and possible methods for managing contaminated sediments. As part of this program, we developed a method by which multiple forms of information on sediment contamination (i.e., chemistry, laboratory toxicity, and benthic community composition) could be combined to rank the relative hazard to aquatic life of a series of sediment samples. The process that was developed incorporates chemistry and bioavailability into the ranking as toxic units in pore water based on U.S. EPA Ambient Water Quality Criteria (AWQC). Laboratory toxicity is incorporated into the ranking process as mean response relative to control response. Benthic community information is incorporated into the ranking process through the use of relative tolerance to pollution among benthic invertebrate taxa, from which the mean tolerance to pollution of the benthic community is calculated. The three resulting ranks are then averaged to produce a relative ranking of risk to aquatic life among sediment samples. Our results demonstrate that, as long as a moderate list of laboratory toxicity test results are included in the ranking process (i.e., tests from a fish, a zooplankter, a benthic invertebrate, a phytoplankter, and a microbe), the resultant rankings among samples does not significantly change with inclusion of more laboratory toxicity test results. Without any benthic community structure information, with only laboratory toxicity test results from Microtox,® and with only a short list of chemicals, relative ranking among sites changes drastically. Our results demonstrate the general utility of the ranking process as one way of assessing the relative hazard among many sites when resource limitations necessitate prioritization of sites for remediation.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1996
Title Hazard ranking of contaminated sediments based on chemical analysis, laboratory toxicity tests, and benthic community composition: Prioritizing sites for remedial action
DOI 10.1016/S0380-1330(96)70986-3
Authors Mark L. Wildhaber, Christopher J. Schmitt
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Great Lakes Research
Series Number
Index ID 70187936
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Columbia Environmental Research Center