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ASTM E1391-03(2023)

Standard Guide for Collection, Storage, Characterization, and Manipulation of Sediments for Toxicological Testing and for Selection of Samplers Used to Collect Benthic Invertebrates

Standard Guide for Collection, Storage, Characterization, and Manipulation of Sediments for Toxicological Testing and for Selection of Samplers Used to Collect Benthic Invertebrates E1391-03R23 ASTM|E1391-03R23|en-US Standard Guide for Collection, Storage, Characterization, and Manipulation of Sediments for Toxicological Testing and for Selection of Samplers Used to Collect Benthic Invertebrates Standard new BOS Vol. 11.06 Committee E50
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Significance and Use

5.1 Sediment toxicity evaluations are a critical component of environmental quality and ecosystem impact assessments, and are used to meet a variety of research and regulatory objectives. The manner in which the sediments are collected, stored, characterized, and manipulated can influence the results of any sediment quality or process evaluation greatly. Addressing these variables in a systematic and uniform manner will aid the interpretations of sediment toxicity or bioaccumulation results and may allow comparisons between studies.

5.2 Sediment quality assessment is an important component of water quality protection. Sediment assessments commonly include physicochemical characterization, toxicity tests or bioaccumulation tests, as well as benthic community analyses. The use of consistent sediment collection, manipulation, and storage methods will help provide high quality samples with which accurate data can be obtained for the national inventory and for other programs to prevent, remediate, and manage contaminated sediment.

5.3 It is now widely known that the methods used in sample collection, transport, handling, storage, and manipulation of sediments and interstitial waters can influence the physicochemical properties and the results of chemical, toxicity, and bioaccumulation analyses. Addressing these variables in an appropriate and systematic manner will provide more accurate sediment quality data and facilitate comparisons among sediment studies.

5.4 This standard provides current information and recommendations for collecting and handling sediments for physicochemical characterization and biological testing, using procedures that are most likely to maintain in situ conditions, most accurately represent the sediment in question, or satisfy particular needs, to help generate consistent, high quality data collection.

5.5 This standard is intended to provide technical support to those who design or perform sediment quality studies under a variety of regulatory and non-regulatory programs. Information is provided concerning general sampling design considerations, field and laboratory facilities needed, safety, sampling equipment, sample storage and transport procedures, and sample manipulation issues common to chemical or toxicological analyses. Information contained in this standard reflects the knowledge and experience of several internationally-known sources including the Puget Sound Estuary Program (PSEP), Washington State Department of Ecology (WDE), United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and Environment Canada. This standard attempts to present a coherent set of recommendations on field sampling techniques and sediment or interstitial water sample processing based on the above sources, as well as extensive information in the peer-reviewed literature.

5.6 As the scope of this standard is broad, it is impossible to adequately present detailed information on every aspect of sediment sampling and processing for all situations. Nor is such detailed guidance warranted because much of this information (for example, how to operate a particular sampling device or how to use a Geographical Positioning System (GPS) device) already exists in other published materials referenced in this standard.

5.7 Given the above constraints, this standard: (1) presents a discussion of activities involved in sediment sampling and sample processing; (2) alerts the user to important issues that should be considered within each activity; and (3) gives recommendations on how to best address the issues raised such that appropriate samples are collected and analyzed. An attempt is made to alert the user to different considerations pertaining to sampling and sample processing depending on the objectives of the study (for example, remediation, dredged material evaluations or status and trends monitoring).

5.8 The organization of this standard reflects the desire to give field personnel and managers a useful tool for choosing appropriate sampling locations, characterize those locations, collect and store samples, and manipulate those samples for analyses. Each section of this standard is written so that the reader can obtain information on only one activity or set of activities (for example, subsampling or sample processing), if desired, without necessarily reading the entire standard. Many sections are cross-referenced so that the reader is alerted to relevant issues that might be covered elsewhere in the standard. This is particularly important for certain chemical or toxicological applications in which appropriate sample processing or laboratory procedures are associated with specific field sampling procedures.

5.9 The methods contained in this standard are widely applicable to any entity wishing to collect consistent, high quality sediment data. This standard does not provide guidance on how to implement any specific regulatory requirement, or design a particular sediment quality assessment, but rather it is a compilation of technical methods on how to best collect environmental samples that most appropriately address common sampling objectives.

5.10 The information presented in this standard should not be viewed as the final statement on all the recommended procedures. Many of the topics addressed in this standard (for example, sediment holding time, formulated sediment composition, interstitial water collection and processing) are the subject of ongoing research. As data from sediment monitoring and research becomes available in the future, this standard will be updated as necessary.


1.1 This guide covers procedures for obtaining, storing, characterizing, and manipulating marine, estuarine, and freshwater sediments, for use in laboratory sediment toxicity evaluations and describes samplers that can be used to collect sediment and benthic invertebrates (Annex A1). This standard is not meant to provide detailed guidance for all aspects of sediment assessments, such as chemical analyses or monitoring, geophysical characterization, or extractable phase and fractionation analyses. However, some of this information might have applications for some of these activities. A variety of methods are reviewed in this guide. A statement on the consensus approach then follows this review of the methods. This consensus approach has been included in order to foster consistency among studies. It is anticipated that recommended methods and this guide will be updated routinely to reflect progress in our understanding of sediments and how to best study them. This version of the standard is based primarily on a document developed by USEPA (2001 (1))2 and by Environment Canada (1994 (2)) as well as an earlier version of this standard.

1.2 Protecting sediment quality is an important part of restoring and maintaining the biological integrity of our natural resources as well as protecting aquatic life, wildlife, and human health. Sediment is an integral component of aquatic ecosystems, providing habitat, feeding, spawning, and rearing areas for many aquatic organisms (MacDonald and Ingersoll 2002 a, b (3)(4)). Sediment also serves as a reservoir for contaminants in sediment and therefore a potential source of contaminants to the water column, organisms, and ultimately human consumers of those organisms. These contaminants can arise from a number of sources, including municipal and industrial discharges, urban and agricultural runoff, atmospheric deposition, and port operations.

1.3 Contaminated sediment can cause lethal and sublethal effects in benthic (sediment-dwelling) and other sediment-associated organisms. In addition, natural and human disturbances can release contaminants to the overlying water, where pelagic (water column) organisms can be exposed. Sediment-associated contaminants can reduce or eliminate species of recreational, commercial, or ecological importance, either through direct effects or by affecting the food supply that sustainable populations require. Furthermore, some contaminants in sediment can bioaccumulate through the food chain and pose health risks to wildlife and human consumers even when sediment-dwelling organisms are not themselves impacted (Test Method E1706).

1.4 There are several regulatory guidance documents concerned with sediment collection and characterization procedures that might be important for individuals performing federal or state agency-related work. Discussion of some of the principles and current thoughts on these approaches can be found in Dickson, et al. Ingersoll et al. (1997 (5)), and Wenning and Ingersoll (2002 (6)).

1.5 This guide is arranged as follows:





Referenced Documents




Summary of Guide


Significance and Use






Safety Hazards


Sediment Monitoring and Assessment Plans


Collection of Whole Sediment Samples


Field Sample Processing, Transport, and Storage of Sediments


Sample Manipulations


Collection of Interstitial Water


Physico-chemical Characterization of Sediment Samples


Quality Assurance






Description of Samplers Used to Collect Sediment or Benthic Invertebrates

Annex A1

1.6 Field-collected sediments might contain potentially toxic materials and should thus be treated with caution to minimize occupational exposure to workers. Worker safety must also be considered when working with spiked sediments containing various organic, inorganic, or radiolabeled contaminants, or some combination thereof. Careful consideration should be given to those chemicals that might biodegrade, volatilize, oxidize, or photolyze during the exposure.

1.7 The values stated in either SI or inch-pound units are to be regarded as the standard. The values given in parentheses are for information only.

1.8 This standard does not purport to address all of the safety concerns, if any, associated with its use. It is the responsibility of the user of this standard to establish appropriate safety, health, and environmental practices and determine the applicability of regulatory limitations prior to use.Specific hazards statements are given in Section 8.

1.9 This international standard was developed in accordance with internationally recognized principles on standardization established in the Decision on Principles for the Development of International Standards, Guides and Recommendations issued by the World Trade Organization Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Committee.

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Book of Standards Volume: 11.06
Developed by Subcommittee: E50.47
Pages: 94
DOI: 10.1520/E1391-03R23
ICS Code: 13.060.45