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Regulatory Framework for the Management and Remediation of Contaminated Marine Sediments

October 1997

Citation: ELR 10483

Author: Kenneth S. Kamlet and Peter Shelley

Editors' Summary: In 1989, a National Research Council study concluded that contaminated sediments are "widespread in U.S. coastal waters" and have "potentially far-reaching consequences to both public health and the environment." A 1996 interim EPA report reached a similar conclusion. This concern over contaminated sediments is not new. It has manifested itself in a dizzying array of statutory and regulatory restrictions on the disposal of these sediments. In this Article, two members of the Marine Board Committee on Contaminated Marine Sediments explain this complex framework of legal requirements. The Article begins with an examination of the law governing navigation dredging and sediment placement. It then discusses the relevant provisions of CERCLA, the FWPCA, the biennial Water Resources Development Acts, and federal laws authorizing state programs that apply to contaminated sediments. Finally, it examines how these various provisions interact and suggests ways in which this legal framework could be improved.

Mr. Kamlet, who served as co-chair of the Marine Board Committee on Contaminated Marine Sediments, is currently counsel to N.W. Bernstein & Associates, Washington, D.C. Mr. Shelley, who was a member of the Marine Board Committee, is a senior attorney and project director for Marine Resources and Water Resources of the Conservation Law Foundation, Inc., Boston, Massachusetts.

This Article is adapted with permission from Contaminated Sediments in Ports and Waterways: Cleanup Strategies and Technologies. Copyright 1997 by the National Academy of Sciences. Courtesy of the National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. This Article first appeared as Appendix B to that document, which was a National Research Council, Marine Board, report. The report was published by the National Academy Press (ISBN 0-309-05493-1), and released on March 26, 1997. The manuscript has been updated by Mr. Kamlet to reflect recent developments and has been edited by the ELR staff.