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Project Title & Location
Multi-Media Permit for Sediment Re-Handling Oregon

Applicant State Agency
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

Project Contact
Keith Johnson
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
811 SW 6th Avenue
Portland, OR 97204
(T) 503.229.6431
(F) 503.229.6954

In Cooperation with Another Federal Program?

Federal Regulatory Flexibility Required?

Project Support from Agency Director?

Summary Budget Information


The management of dredged sediment is a growing challenge, from both a regulatory and environmental perspective. Sediment contaminated at levels too high to allow for unconfined in-water disposal must be either be placed in a confined in-water disposal facility or handled upland. Both approaches can prove costly, impose undue regulatory burdens, and be restrictive to beneficial reuse. A sediment re-handling facility can take sediment not suitable for in-water disposal, manage it in a treatment cell and effectively separate the return water from the sediment. The de-watered sediment can then be analytically screened for a variety of reuse options (wetlands, clean fill, industrial fill) depending on the "quality" of the dewatered sediment. Establishing a sediment re-handling facility is relatively new concept that may prove to be both more environmentally sustainable (allowing for beneficial reuse) and cost effective than traditional management mechanisms. There are currently disincentives to this approach because of the complex regulatory oversight by both Federal and State agencies. Currently, the only oversight option for "low risk" dewatered sediments is to use a resource intensive solid waste exemption process.

The goal of this proposal is to develop a multi-media permit for sediment re-handling facilities (whether municipal or private) that: (1) Provides for quicker environmental decision making so sediment can be removed more rapidly from the aquatic environment, (2) Provides clear guidance on when and by what methods de-watered sediment will be evaluated for a variety of beneficial uses, (3) Provides one permit for the management of sediment (incorporates both WQ and SW issues), (4) Is self-implementing for the regulated community (will reference risk-based standards for proper re-use), and (5) Provides a level of oversight and environmental protection appropriate for low risk dewatered sediments, thus allowing limited State resources to focus on high priority contaminated sediment issues.

Funding of this proposal will allow DEQ to develop a streamlined approach to sediment management in upland environments. Through analysis of the chemical and physical characteristics of de-watered sediment, we hope to enable quicker determinations regarding the ultimate disposition of sediment (clean fill, beneficial reuse, disposal). Through more careful analysis and management, sediment can be moved more quickly from the aquatic environment into a re-handling facility for appropriate management.

Project Schedule and Timeframe
This project will take approximately two years and will start approximately January 1, 2003. The first six months of the project would build on existing work by expanding the discussion with those benefiting from and being affected by the multi-media permit. This would be done through a series of meetings and other contacts that would further define and delineate the scope the permit. From those discussions a permit outline would be developed. The next year of the project would be the development of a boilerplate permit and associated guidance for issuance and implementation. It is anticipated that at least one Pilot permit would be issued. During last 6 months of the project, an outreach plan will be implemented that promotes the use and awareness of the permit. In addition, a follow-up survey will capture the utility of the permit by those using it. A final report will be written that includes a Web-based description of the multi-media permit, example permitted projects, and beneficial uses of this approach.

Program Criteria

Target Priority Environmental Areas
This project would improve water quality through quicker decision making concerning the removal of contaminated sediment. Deciding whether sediment that requires dredging but needs to be managed in an upland setting is not yet a straightforward process. The lack of clear, consistent, and efficient sediment handling practices can result in contaminated sediment remaining in the aquatic environment longer periods of time, increasing the exposure of the aquatic environment to the contamination. In addition to meeting EPA's and DEQ's priority of improved water quality, this project is also in accord with DEQ's strategic goal of toxics risk reduction, by implementation of integrated and streamlined approaches to contaminated sediment management. DEQ recognizes that sediment contamination is an area of growing concern and is actively pursuing recommendations regarding redefining clean fill and adopting HWIR for contaminated sediment. A key recommendation was to explore a multi-media permit for sediment re-handling facilities. This multi-media process would coordinate components of the Hazardous Waste, Solid Waste and Water Quality programs at DEQ to expedite the disposition and ultimate reuse of dredged sediments. However, DEQ has not been able to implement this recommendation due to resource limitations.

Use of Incentives as a Tool
DEQ proposes to (1) establish a multi-media permit for sediment re-handling facilities, (2) provide a single point of contact (by DEQ region) for such multi-media permits, (3) allow self-certification of beneficial reuse options for de-watered sediment, (4) expedite sediment handling and reuse permitting, and (5) develop clear, self-implementing guidance. The goal of these activities is to provide incentives for the following activities:

Transferring Innovation
Sediment management is a national issue. Various states and EPA regions are approaching such management in multiple ways. Streamlined sediment management will be broadly applicable and provide other jurisdictions more options for better material management and reuse. By integrating the regulatory considerations of various DEQ programs into a multi-media permit, we will be encouraging cross-program partnership, and more efficient use of resources. DEQ has established a cross-program section, which is tasked to come up with this sort of "next generation" solution to the Agency's pressing environmental challenges. Streamlining sediment management will be one of the first undertakings of this section. Lessons learned from this cross-program approach will be applied to other Agency issues. Furthermore, this permitting model could easily be expanded and welcomed by other states confronted with this growing problem.

Guaranteeing Measures and Accountability
The desired short-term goals are: (1) developing a multi-media permit, (2) streamlining the permitting process, and (3) encouraging the beneficial reuse of dewatered sediments. A longer term goal is development of a guide for sediment handling that would identify likely reuse options for dewatered sediments given the bulk chemistry of the in-water sediments. Indicators to measure progress toward these goals include, but are not limited to:

Qualitative Selection Factors
Of the seven selection factors listed, this project supports three of them:

  1. feasibility - DEQ is confident this project will achieve its stated goals within the proposed budget and timeframe, as it builds on existing recommendations within the Agency
  2. multi-medial and multi-government - this project will involve Port authorities and possibly the regional government (METRO), and
  3. institutional readiness - DEQ has already done considerable work internally on this issue and has created a cross-program section to deal specifically with such multi-media issues.



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