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Sediment Sites



Contaminated sediment sites are generally more complex than terrestrial sites. Factors that contribute to their complexity include the dynamic nature of aquatic systems, the potential for ongoing multiple sources from Department of the Navy (DON) and non-DON releases, their relatively large size, and the potential for ongoing mission critical activities. Remedial Project Managers (RPMs) maintain awareness of Navy policy and guidance for sediment sites including source identification, defensible data collection, risk management, and remedial action evaluation when appropriate. RPMs also plan early on for an acquisition strategy that ensures efficient and cost-effective implementation of sediment remediation projects.

Jump to Resources to access Policies & Guidance, Publications, Related Sites, and Tools




Contaminated sediments pose an important and complex challenge for DON, as many DON installations are located within marine or estuarine sediment basins and watersheds along the coastline. The dynamic nature of aquatic systems makes characterizing the nature and extent of sediment contamination more challenging than typical terrestrial sites. Sediments can be impacted by both DON and non-DON releases, as well as accumulate and/or release contamination over time depending on site-specific conditions. Therefore, a more robust evaluation of potential DON and non-DON sources of contamination is required to identify DON responsibility and ensure recontamination does not occur after cleanup. Many DON sediment sites are also located in areas with logistical and access restrictions due to mission critical activities. Because of the challenges that may arise, sediment sites can be very costly and challenging to remediate.

The DON Policy on Sediment Site Investigation and Response Action details how and when to implement sediment investigations and response actions. A critical component of the policy is the requirement that all sediment investigations and response actions must be directly linked to DON Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) or Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) contamination. The policy also introduced the Watershed Contaminated Source Document (WCSD), a report that documents the existence of both DON and non-DON sources whose activities may have or could continue to have an impact on sediments in a water body adjacent to DON property. More details on the WCSD can be found in the WCSD Fact Sheet.

For more information, RPMs should refer to DON policy and guidance to support contaminated sediment investigations and response actions. In addition, DON and the Department of Defense (DoD) have made significant investments in resources and research for contaminated sediment site management. Contaminated sediment sites are addressed in Chapter 13.7 of the DON Environmental Restoration Program Manual.



Title and Description

ERP Manual

DON Environmental Restoration Program Manual: Chapter 13.7 Contaminated Sediments (February 2018)

Describes DON’s policies and approaches applicable to sediment site investigation and remediation.


Sediment Dredging in Areas Known or Suspected of Containing Munitions and Explosives of Concern and/or Material Potentially Presenting an Explosive Hazard (August 2020)

This guidance was developed for Department of the Navy (DON) Environmental Restoration Remedial Project Managers (RPMs) who are managing and executing sediment dredging projects in areas known or suspected of containing munitions and explosives of concern (MEC) and/or material potentially presenting an explosive hazard (MPPEH).


DON Guidance for Planning and Optimizing Monitoring Strategies: Chapter 6 Contaminated Sediments (November 2010)

Provides comprehensive information on optimizing monitoring programs at sediment sites.


Contaminated Sediment Remediation Guidance for Hazardous Waste Sites, EPA Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER) (December 2005)

Provides a review of methods that can be used to reduce risk caused by contaminated sediments.


Sediment Implementation Guide for Assessing and Managing Contaminated Sediment at Navy Facilities (January 2005)

Presents guidelines for conducting sediment site assessments and remedial alternative evaluations.

Habitat Restoration

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

Presents a framework for the development and implementation of technically defensible monitoring programs for habitat restoration.

Background Chemicals

Navy Policy on the Use of Background Chemical Levels (January 2004)

Clarifies the Navy’s position on consideration of background chemical levels.

Background Chemicals

NAVFAC Guidance for Environmental Background Analysis: Volume II Sediment (April 2003)

Provides instructions for the characterization of background conditions at sediment sites where past uses of the property may have resulted in chemical releases.


DON Policy on Sediment Site Investigation and Response Action (February 2002)

Specifies conditions for site investigation and cleanup of contaminated sediments including source control, risk-based cleanup goals, and monitoring requirements. Also, introduces the requirements for completion of a Watershed Contaminated Source Document (WCSD).


Title and Description

Surface Weighted Average Concentration Methods

Case Studies using Surface Weighted Average Concentration Methods at Sediment Remediation Sites
Surface-Area Weighted Average Concentrations (SWACs) can be used to estimate mean contaminant concentrations over
a specified area using contaminant data collected over different temporal and spatial scales. The SWAC method is used
to reduce the influence of sampling bias and interpolate contaminant of concern (COC) concentrations in areas with limited
sampling locations. SWAC methodologies can also be used to define remedial footprints in the Feasibility Study (FS) and
evaluate remedy effectiveness. SWACs are an increasingly common approach for assessing compliance with remediation
goals at contaminated sediment sites within the United States.

Ground Water to
Surface Water

Groundwater to Surface Water Interface: Overview and Management (Part 1) (January 2021)
Groundwater to Surface Water Interface: Summary of Tools and Techniques (Part 2) (January 2021)
These fact sheets, broken down into two parts, describes the physical, chemical, and biological attenuation processes that occur at the groundwater to surface water interface (GW-SWI). These attenuation processes should be incorporated into the evaluation of exposure pathways at GW-SWI sites and considered in adaptive site monitoring and management strategies.

Passive Sampling

Passive Sampling for Contaminated Sediment Sites (September 2018)
Provides an overview of the types of passive samplers available, along with preparation 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. 

Reactive Capping

Sediment Reactive Capping Fact Sheet (March 2016)
Provides an overview of reactive capping as an emerging contaminated sediment remediation approach.

Sustainable Remediation

Sustainable Sediment Remediation White Paper (September 2015)
Provides a connection between DON optimization and sediment policies to support sustainability evaluations of sediment remedies.

Conceptual Site Model, Pathways

Conceptual Site Model (CSM) Checklist - Sediment (January 2013)
Summarizes key elements to consider when developing a CSM for a sediment site.

Environmental Forensics

A Handbook for Determining the Sources of Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB) Contamination in Sediments (October 2012)
Provides information on conducting forensic investigations for PCBs at sediment sites including a summary of analytical methods and two case studies to demonstrate the approach.

Characterization, Ecological Risk

Rapid Sediment Characterization (RSC) Tools for Ecological Risk Assessment, NAVFAC Risk Assessment Workgroup Issue Paper (June 2011)
Discusses various RSC tools available to assist in conducting ecological risk assessments and for characterizing sediment site.

Sediment Transport

User’s Guide for Assessing Sediment Transport at Navy Facilities (September 2007)
Provides guidance on evaluating sediment transport and how to use this information to support sediment management decisions.

Sediment Contamination Sources

User’s Guide for Determining the Sources of Contaminants in Sediments (September 2003)
Provides guidance and an example case study on how to defensibly describe the nature, extent, and source(s) of anthropogenic contamination in sediments near existing or former naval installations.

Sediment Contamination Sources

Watershed Contaminated Source Document (WCSD) Fact Sheet (March 2003)
Explains the content of the WCSD and how it can be used to better understand numerous contaminant sources that may be impacting sediment sites.

Sediment Research

Activated Carbon, Capping, Wetlands

ESTCP ER-200825: In Situ Wetland Restoration Demonstration Final Report (September 2016)
Demonstrates the use of activated carbon to sequester contaminants in situ in a wetland.

SERDP-ESTCP Bioavailability

Validation of Passive Sampling Devices for Monitoring of Munitions Constituents in Underwater Environments
Summarizes a series of field validations on commercially available passive sampling devices (PSDs) that have been laboratory optimized to detect and quantify munitions constituents (MCs) in underwater environments.

SERDP-ESTCP Fate and Transport

Demonstration of Fluorescent Magnetic Particles for Linking Sources to Sediments at DoD Sites
Summarizes the demonstration of particle tracking technology to quantitatively map the spatiotemporal distribution and depositional footprint of particles released from typical Department of Defense (DoD) contaminant sources into adjacent aquatic environments.

SERDP-ESTCP Stormwater

Demonstration of New Tools for Improved Source and Recontamination Potential Assessment
Summarizes the demonstration of a family of technologies adapted from the oceanographic and environmental arenas that could significantly improve the ability to address contaminant source exposure, transport, and fate challenges at DoD coastal sites in a relatively simple and cost-effective way.

SERDP-ESTCP In Place Remediation

Evaluating the Efficacy of Bioaugmentation for In-Situ Treatment of PCB Impacted Sediments
Evaluates the efficacy of an in situ application of AC amended with PCB degrading microorganisms to reduce the total mass and bioavailability of PCBs in sediments.

Activated Carbon, Capping, PCBs

Long Term Monitoring of Activated Carbon Amendment to Reduce PCB Bioavailability in Sediments at an Active Shipyard
Extends the application of activated carbon to decrease the bioavailability of PCBs in contaminated sediments through a demonstration at an active DoD site.

Reactive Capping

SERDP ER-1493: Reactive Capping Mat Development and Evaluation for Sequestering Contaminants in Sediment (August 2011)
Summarizes the demonstration results from a reactive geotextile mat system designed to reduce ecological risks by sequestering contaminants in sed

Porewater, Toxicity Identification Evaluation (TIE)

Guide for Planning and Conducting Sediment Pore Water Toxicity Identification Evaluations (TIE) to Determine Causes of Acute Toxicity at Navy Aquatic Sites (March 2003)
Reviews how TIE studies aid in characterizing and managing toxic freshwater and marine sediments through the identification of classes of stressors that cause toxicity to aquatic life.

TIE, Remedial Goals

Sediment: Using Sediment Toxicity Identification Evaluations to Improve the Development of Remedial Goals for Aquatic Habitats (March 2003)
Describes how the selection of appropriate cleanup goals can be improved by identifying the risk-causing chemicals through TIE studies.



Title and Description

Environmental  Footprint Tool

SiteWiseTM Tool Version 3.3

An updated version of the SiteWiseTM tool, specifically designed to calculate the environmental footprint of remedial alternatives for sediment sites. 

For a copy of this tool, please email:

EPA Models

EPA Surface Water Models

Simulation models designed to quantify movement and concentration of contaminants in lakes, streams, estuaries, and marine environments. Includes sediment transport models.

CSM Checklist

Conceptual Site Model (CSM) Considerations -Sediment/Surface Water

A CSM checklist for sediment and surface water considerations.

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