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Battelle Environment Matters

Battelle Environment Matters

Industry Insights
Researcher working on a boat

Advancing Sediment Science at Battelle

Contaminated sediments present significant remediation challenges. For nearly two decades, Battelle has worked with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Research and Development (ORD) to advance new methods and technologies for sediment characterization, monitoring and remediation. 

The ORD’s mission is to study the technical aspects of environmental restoration and provide guidance to support EPA’s programs and regional offices. Since 2000, Battelle has supported several long-term, multi-faceted ORD research studies at contaminated sediment sites for ORD’s National Risk Management Research Laboratory (NRMRL). Most notably, these include the Sangamo Weston/Twelve-Mile Creek/Lake Hartwell Superfund site in South Carolina, where monitored natural recovery (MNR) was the selected remedy, and two dredging sites in Ohio overseen by the Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO)—the Ashtabula River and Ottawa River areas of concern (AOCs). 

Our work with ORD spans every aspect of site characterization and monitoring for contaminated sediments, including development of data quality objectives (DQOs) and quality assurance project plans, field planning, field sample collection (deploying our own vessels and field staff), laboratory analysis, and data interpretation. Battelle brings extensive experience in quality assurance for sediment projects, ensuring that sample collection and analysis is conducted using rigorous quality controls to ensure defensible results. 
At the Ashtabula River AOC, GLNPO conducted dredging operations in 2006 and 2007 to remove sediments contaminated with PCBs. Battelle conducted a baseline (pre-dredge) sediment characterization in 2006 and follow-up monitoring surveys during dredging, immediately after dredging, and for five years after remediation. Researchers examined multiple lines of evidence to monitor recovery and track the fate and transport of contaminants through the environment. 

These lines of evidence included:

  • Sampling and chemical analysis of contaminants in surface, suspended, and historic sediments
  • Multi-level, real-time sampling and analysis of contaminants in the water column
  • Sampling, chemical analysis, and development of toxicity endpoints for indigenous fish
  • Innovative bathymetry, suspended sediment, and plume monitoring and modeling
  • Novel macrobenthos collection techniques for determining benthic conditions and contaminant exposure
  • New passive sampler technology and deployment techniques

For two decades, Battelle has worked with ORD to develop, evaluate and deploy new passive sampling technologies and methodologies for their use in the field. Battelle’s team has acquired extensive expertise in sampler preparation, field deployment design, chemical analysis (including selection and analysis of performance reference compounds [PRCs]), and interpretation and application of chemical results. The team is now using the methodologies they have developed at multiple sites across the U.S. for EPA and other agencies including the Department of Defense (DoD). 

Lessons learned from studies at these sites have driven the development of resource documents that help various stakeholders understand contaminant fate and transport at these sites, as well as how contaminated sediments can be monitored and assessed at other remediation sites across the U.S. Resources include EPA’s Technical Resource Document on Monitored Natural Recovery, developed by Battelle for the NRMRL. Recently, Battelle worked with GLNPO and ORD to conduct a Remedy Effectiveness Assessment (REA) for the Ashtabula River AOC—the first REA to be produced for a GLNPO site. 

Battelle’s work with EPA continues today. The REA for the Ottawa River AOC is currently under development with the final report expected in 2018. Battelle continues to support EPA’s mission at sites in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Minnesota. As remediation efforts at these and other EPA sites continue, Battelle will be working to move emerging technologies and methods forward to improve data collection and analysis and to support EPA decision making.