Great Lakes Upland Testing and Evaluation for Beneficial Use
Contaminated sediment is a pervasive problem at Great Lakes Areas of Concern (AOCs) and other places around the Great Lakes. Attention to date has primarily focused on remediating small volumes of highly contaminated sediments at toxic "hot spots."
However, many AOCs have large volumes of sediments with lower levels of contamination and/or elevated nutrients that impair beneficial uses. These sediments may be suitable for a variety of upland applications (i.e., beneficial uses) that are potentially more cost-effective and more environmentally sound than landfilling or placement in a confined disposal facility (CDF).
In brief, beneficial use of dredged material can help restore beneficial uses to Great Lakes AOCs. Beneficial use allows for the recycling of dredged material, offering a more sustainable management option than placement in the open lake or in a CDF. Also, Great Lakes CDF capacity is diminishing, placement of non-navigation material in existing CDFs is controversial, constructing new CDFs is costly and locations are difficult to secure.
While some federal and state guidance exists for determining beneficial uses in aquatic environments, federal and state environmental regulations and procedures do not address upland placement of dredged material in a comprehensive and consistent manner. Upland beneficial use of dredged material includes the following:
- Habitat creation/restoration
- Agricultural amendments
- Use of dredged material in the manufacture of aggregate for construction materials
The lack of adequate regulatory guidance was one of the obstacles to beneficial use of dredged material identified by the Great Lakes Commission's Beneficial Use Task Force (also see Final Task Force Report, (PDF) 2001). As a result, most upland beneficial uses are evaluated on a case-by-case basis using various types of guidance developed to regulate solid waste, hazardous waste and sewage sludge.
The Task Force recommended that regional guidance be developed for beneficial use of dredged material. This recommendation is one of the top five priorities in the Great Lakes Dredging Team's Beneficial Use Implementation Strategy (PDF). This proposed project specifically addresses that recommendation and priority. The project concept was presented to and endorsed by the GLDT at its October, 2001 meeting in Milwaukee, Wi.