The U.S. Geological Survey’s Sediment-bound Contaminant Resiliency and Response Strategy: A Tiered Multi-metric Approach to Environmental Health and Hazards in the Northeastern USA
Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Enhanced dispersion and concentration of contaminants such as trace metals and organic pollutants through storm-induced disturbances and sea level rise (SLR) are major factors that could adversely impact the health and resilience of communities and ecosystems in coming years. As part of the response to Hurricane Sandy, the U.S. Geological Survey collected data on the effects of contaminant source disturbance and dispersion. A major limitation of conducting pre- and post-Sandy comparisons was the lack of baseline data in locations proximal to potential contaminant sources and mitigation activities, sensitive ecosystems, and recreational facilities where human and ecological exposures are probable. To address this limitation, a Sediment-bound Contaminant Resiliency and Response (SCoRR) strategy with two operational modes, Resiliency (baseline) and Response (event-based), has been designed by leveraging existing interagency networks and resources. In Resiliency Mode, sites will be identified and sampled using standardized procedures prioritized to develop baseline data and to define sediment-quality based environmental health metrics. In Response Mode, a subset of sites within the network will be evaluated to ensure that adequate pre-event data exist at priority locations. If deficient, pre-event samples will be collected from priority locations. Crews will be deployed post-event to resample these locations allowing direct evaluation of impacts, as well as redefining baseline conditions for these areas. A tiered analytical and data integration strategy has been developed that will identify vulnerable human and environmental receptors, the sediment-bound contaminants present, and the biological activity and potential effects of exposure to characterized sediments. Communication mechanisms are in development to make resulting data available in a timely fashion and in a suitable format for informing event response and recovery efforts.