An official website of the United States government.

This is not the current EPA website. To navigate to the current EPA website, please go to This website is historical material reflecting the EPA website as it existed on January 19, 2021. This website is no longer updated and links to external websites and some internal pages may not work. More information »


Sediment Risk Management Principles

Characterizing contamination, managing risk, and implementing remedies at contaminated sediment sites each pose challenges. EPA has developed policy and technical guidance to facilitate these processes and encourage national consistency.

On this page:

Remedy Selection Criteria

When managing sediment sites, EPA’s remedial project managers and on-scene coordinators make risk-based decisions. When deciding how to clean up a sediment site, they evaluate the short- and long-term risks of all cleanup alternatives, maintaining consistency with the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan’s nine remedy selection criteria at 40 CFR Part 300.430:

1. Protection of human health and the environment;
2. Compliance with Applicable or Relevant and Appropriate Requirements;
3. Long-term effectiveness and permanence;
4. Toxicity, mobility or volume reduction through treatment;
5. Short-term effectiveness;
6. Implementability;
7. Cost;
8. State agency acceptance; and
9. Community acceptance.

See Key Principles of Superfund Remedy Selection for more on how EPA selects remedies.

Top of Page

Risk Management Principles

In 2002, EPA established 11 risk management principles for sediment site managers to consider when planning and conducting site investigations, involving the affected parties, and selecting and implementing a response:

  1. Control sources early;
  2. Involve the community early and often;
  3. Coordinate with state and local governments, tribes, and natural resource trustees;
  4. Develop and refine a conceptual site model that considers sediment stability;
  5. Use an iterative approach in a risk-based framework;
  6. Carefully evaluate the assumptions and uncertainties associated with site characterization data and site models;
  7. Select site-specific, project-specific and sediment-specific risk management approaches that will achieve risk-based goals;
  8. Ensure that sediment cleanup levels are clearly tied to risk management goals;
  9. Maximize the effectiveness of institutional controls and recognize their limitations;
  10. Design remedies to minimize short-term risks while achieving long-term protection; and
  11. Monitor during and after sediment remediation to assess and document remedy effectiveness.

Top of Page

Relevant Guidance and Directives

In 2005, EPA published a comprehensive Contaminated Sediment Remediation Guidance for Hazardous Waste Sites to help site managers implement cost-effective remedies that will control sources and achieve long-term protection while minimizing short-term impacts.

In 2017, an EPA directive entitled Remediating Contaminated Sediment Sites (PDF)(24 pp, 6 MB, About PDF) provided several recommendations on implementing best practices for characterizing sediment sites, evaluating remedial alternatives, and selecting and implementing appropriate response actions.

Top of Page