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small noaa logo Home | Publications | Assessing Risk to Ecological Resources

Sediment Quality Guidelines (ERL/ERM)

Through its National Status and Trends (NS&T) Program, NOAA generates considerable amounts of chemical data on sediments. Without national criteria or other widely-applicable numerical tools, NOAA scientists found it difficult to estimate the possible toxicological significance of chemical concentrations in sediments. Thus, numerical sediment quality guidelines were developed as informal, interpretive tools for the NS&T Program.

The guidelines were initially intended for use by NOAA scientists in ranking areas that warranted further detailed study on the actual occurrence of adverse effects such as toxicity. Also, they were intended for use in ranking chemicals that might be of potential concern. In many regional surveys of sediment toxicity performed throughout North America, NOAA has used the guidelines to compare the degree of contamination among sub-regions, and to identify chemicals elevated in concentration above the guidelines that were also associated with measures of adverse effects.

The guidelines were not promulgated as regulatory criteria or standards. They were not intended as cleanup or remediation targets, nor as discharge attainment targets. Nor were they intended as pass-fail criteria for dredged material disposal decisions or any other regulatory purpose. Rather, they were intended as informal (non-regulatory) guidelines for use in interpreting chemical data from analyses of sediments.

For more information

Download the Guideline
Below is a link to a document describing how the guidelines were developed and how they are being used, their limitations, and their predictive abilities.

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