New more stringent dioxin levels proposed
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: APRIL 19, 2010                                                                                                  

New more stringent dioxin levels proposed for dredged sediments bound for Puget Sound

SEATTLE – The public is being asked to comment on proposed interim guidelines that would lower the acceptable levels of dioxin for dredged sediments placed in the eight open-water disposal sites in Puget Sound.

The proposal, issued by the four federal and state agencies responsible for managing dredged sediments, offers guidelines based on new monitoring information and research, combined with the need to move forward to protect human health and the environment in Puget Sound.

Because a major part of Washington State’s economy depends upon navigation and maritime commerce, dredging materials out of our state’s waterways is a critically important job. While the need for dredging is clear, determining if dredged materials — which sometimes contain toxic chemicals, pesticides and metals —  are safe for aquatic disposal presents a challenge to state and federal environmental managers.

According to agency officials, dredged material is subjected to rigorous scientific analysis to determine whether it meets state and federal standards before placement on state-owned aquatic lands. Material found to be unsuitable is disposed of in upland landfills.

For more than 20 years, the Washington departments of Ecology and Natural Resources, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have worked in close partnership to develop coordinated, innovative dredge sediment management practices — including a strong monitoring program.

The disposal site monitoring effort is funded by user fees and provides the feedback necessary to ensure that the dredged material evaluation procedures are working. In 2009, 245,000 cubic yards from ten projects were disposed of in the Sound’s eight in-water sites.

The new guidelines will help ensure that dioxin concentrations in sediment at in-water disposal sites will be similar to the background levels of dioxin found in uncontaminated parts of the Puget Sound throughout the region. This approach will better protect human health and the environment. Under the proposed guidelines:

  • Dredged sediment will be tested for dioxins in locations where dioxins could be present. This includes urban bays, near historic or current sources of dioxins, or in locations with high concentrations of associated chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). 
  • The overall levels of dioxin added to an open-water disposal location will not exceed the background levels found in uncontaminated parts of Puget Sound.

Comments must be submitted by June 18, 2010, by e-mail to: dioxinproject@usace.army.mil .
A complete text of the proposed dioxin guidelines can be viewed at:
http://www.nws.usace.army.mil/PublicMenu/Menu.cfm?sitename=DMMO&pagename=Dioxin_Work_Group .

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Media Contacts:  
Patricia Graesser, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers media relations, 206- 764-3760 (patricia.graesser@us.army.mil )
Mark MacIntyre, U.S Environmental Protection Agency media relations, 206- 553-7302 (macintyre.mark@epa.gov )
Jane Chavey, Washington State Department of Natural Resources media relations, 360-902-1721 (jane.chavey@dnr.wa.gov )
Curt Hart, Washington State Department of Ecology media relations, 360-407-6990; cell, 360-480-7908 (curt.hart@ecy.wa.gov)

More about Washington’s Dredged Material Management Program: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/pubs/0706029.pdf


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