Cleaning up contaminated sediment in Washington

We're cleaning up contaminated sediment along coastlines, embayments, estuaries, and rivers. Sediment can include silt, sand, cobble, and beaches.

Clean sediment improves the health of marine and freshwater environments. Contaminated sediment can harm aquatic animals (such as shellfish) that live on or in it. Other animals that depend on these sediment-dwellers for food can also be harmed, including fish, harbor seals, orcas, and people.

We focus our sediment cleanups in areas with high environmental and economic value. This includes areas with natural resources and critical habitats like:

  • Shellfish and eelgrass beds
  • Herring and salmon spawning habitat.
  • Salmon migration corridors

When these habitats are cleaned up, they can improve human and environmental health, increase recreation opportunities and improve the economy.

To do this work, we:

  • Manage sediment cleanup sites
  • Provide expert technical support
  • Revise the Sediment Management Standards rule.
  • Develope guidance and policy
  • Conduct activities that prevent pollution

Major contaminated sediment sites in Washington

Puget Sound Initiative Priority Bays

North Puget Sound

Central Puget Sound

South Puget Sound

Hood Canal Area

Strait of Juan de Fuca

Spokane River

BNSF Railway Skykomish

Upper Columbia River

What regulations are used to clean up contaminated sediment?

We use the Sediment Management Standards (SMS) rule to manage and clean up contaminated sediment and prevent further contamination.

What guidance can help me clean up contaminated sediment?

Sediment Cleanup User’s Manual (SCUM) provides guidance for:

Wood Waste Cleanup Guidance is guidance for cleaning up sediment contaminated by wood waste.

Adaptation Strategies for Resilient Cleanup Remedies is a guide for cleanup project managers to increase the resilience of cleanup sites to the impacts from climate change.

What sediment studies have been done recently?

Regional background. This is a concept in the SMS rule that can be used to set sediment cleanup levels. It can also help evaluate cleanup options, and identify potential areas for cleanup in the future. Regional background includes chemical concentrations in sediment that are from diffuse sources, like stormwater, rather than a specific source. Regional background is set for a specific area, like an embayment or a lake. We have set regional background in a number of areas:

Baywide studies. As part of the Puget Sound Initiative, we've completed baywide sediment studies to help with our cleanup work:

Marine Monitoring ProgramAs part of our Long-Term Marine Sediment Monitoring Program, we evaluate the health of six urban bays in Puget Sound.

Where can I find more technical information about contaminated sediment and cleanup?

Stay updated on the Sediment Management Standards and MTCA rule

Sign up for e-mail announcements for updates on Sediment Management Standards implementation efforts and MTCA rulemaking.

Ecology’s sediment data

Where can I find other sediment-related information at Ecology?

Dredged Material Management Program (DMMP)

The DMMP includes Ecology, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Seattle District), Washington Department of Natural Resources, and the Environmental Protection Agency (Region 10). This program manages the in-water dredging and disposal of marine sediment. This could be from navigation channels, restoration sites, and cleanup sites in Puget Sound or along the Pacific coastline.

For information on the Dredged Material Management Program, contact:

Regional Sediment Evaluation Team (RSET)

The RSET includes Ecology, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Portland District), Washington Department of Natural Resources, the Environmental Protection Agency (Region 10), Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and National Marine Fisheries Service. This program manages the dredging and in-water management of sediment in freshwater. This could be from navigation channels, restoration sites, and cleanup sites.

For information on the Regional Sediment Evaluation Team, contact:

Ecology’s Environmental Assessment Program

Ecology’s Water Quality Program