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ASTM E3242-23

Standard Guide for Developing Representative Background Concentrations at Sediment Sites—Data Evaluation and Development Methodologies

Standard Guide for Developing Representative Background Concentrations at Sediment Sites—Data Evaluation and Development Methodologies E3242-23 ASTM|E3242-23|en-US Standard Guide for Developing Representative Background Concentrations at Sediment Sites—Data Evaluation and Development Methodologies Standard new BOS Vol. 11.05 Committee E50
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Significance and Use

4.1 Intended Use: 

4.1.1 This guide may be used by various parties involved in sediment corrective action programs, including regulatory agencies, project sponsors, environmental consultants, toxicologists, risk assessors, site remediation professionals, environmental contractors, and other stakeholders.

4.2 Importance of the CSM: 

4.2.1 The CSM should be continuously updated and refined to describe the physical properties, chemical composition and occurrence, biologic features, and environmental conditions of the sediment corrective action project (Guide E1689).

4.3 Reference Material: 

4.3.1 This guide should be used in conjunction with other ASTM guides listed in 2.1 (especially Guides E3344 and E3382); this guide should also be used in conjunction with the material in the References at the end of this guide (including 1). Utilizing these reference materials will direct the user in developing representative background concentrations for a sediment site.

4.4 Flexible Site-Specific Implementation: 

4.4.1 This guide provides a systematic, but flexible, framework to accommodate variations in approaches by regulatory agencies and by the user based on project objectives, site complexity, unique site features, regulatory requirements, newly developed guidance, newly published scientific research, changes in regulatory criteria, advances in scientific knowledge and technical capability, and unforeseen circumstances.

4.5 Regulatory Frameworks: 

4.5.1 This guide is intended to be applicable to a broad range of local, state, tribal, federal, or international jurisdictions, each with its own unique regulatory framework. As such, this guide does not provide a detailed discussion of the requirements or guidance associated with any of these regulatory frameworks, nor is it intended to supplant applicable regulations and guidance. The user of this guide will need to be aware of the regulatory requirements and guidance in the jurisdiction where the work is being performed.

4.6 Systematic Project Planning and Scoping Process: 

4.6.1 When applying this guide, the user should undertake a systematic project planning and scoping process to collect information to assist in making site-specific, user-defined decisions for a particular project, including assembling an experienced team of project professionals. These practitioners should have the appropriate expertise to scope, plan, and execute a sediment data acquisition and analysis program. This team may include, but is not limited to, project sponsors, environmental consultants, toxicologists, site remediation professionals, analytical chemists, geochemists, and statisticians.

4.7 Use of Representative Background to Set a Boundary: 

4.7.1 Representative background concentrations for sediments can be used to delineate a sediment corrective action, establishing the boundary of the sediment corrective action area by distinguishing site-related impacts from representative background concentrations. This application requires the development of a BTV for the representative background data set.

4.8 Use of Representative Background to Establish Cleanup Levels: 

4.8.1 Representative background concentrations for sediments can be used to establish cleanup levels for use in sediment corrective actions. In cases where risk-based sediment cleanup levels are below representative background concentrations, background concentrations are typically used as the cleanup level (4). This ensures that the cleanup levels are sustainable. Any recontamination from ongoing sources will eventually result in surface sediment concentrations greater than the risk-based cleanup level, but the surface sediment should still meet a cleanup level based on representative background concentrations, even following recontamination.

4.9 Use of Representative Background in Risk Assessments: 

4.9.1 Representative background concentrations can be used in the risk assessment process (including human and ecological risk assessments) to understand risks posed by background levels of contaminants to human health and the environment, and the incremental risks posed by site-related releases or activities (or both) that result in sediment concentrations that exceed representative background concentrations. Conversely, they can be used to estimate the risk reduction for various contaminants, if sediment is remediated from existing COC concentrations to lower values (that is, representative background concentrations).

4.10 Use of Representative Background in Post-Remedy Monitoring Programs: 

4.10.1 Post-remedy monitoring programs can also use representative background sediment concentrations either as a corrective action target or to understand how post-remedy concentrations compare to the sources not attributable to current or historical site releases or activities. Typically, source control actions taken to ensure that site-related releases are controlled and will not re-contaminate the post-corrective action sediments must be developed based on an understanding of ongoing contributions from representative background. Ongoing sources unrelated to current or historical site-related releases or activities (that may or may not be subject to source control actions) must be considered in this evaluation.

4.11 Other Considerations: 

4.11.1 This guide does not cover all components of a program to develop representative sediment background concentrations.

4.11.2 The overarching process to develop representative background concentrations (including CSM considerations) is not covered in detail in this guide but is discussed in more depth in Guide E3382.

4.11.3 The selection of a background reference area(s) for the sediment site is not covered in detail in this guide but is extensively described in Guide E3344.

4.11.4 Sediment sampling and laboratory analyses are not covered in this guide. Guides E3163 and E3164 contain extensive information concerning sediment sampling and laboratory analyses.

4.11.5 Data quality objectives are not covered in this guide. Data quality objectives are described in (5).

4.11.6 Background study design considerations are not covered in this guide but are described in other references, including Guides E3163 and E3164, as well as (6, 7).

4.11.7 Geospatial analysis considerations are not thoroughly discussed in this guidance but are discussed in more depth relative to environmental evaluations in (8), which focuses on quality assurance concerns relative to geospatial analyses.

4.11.8 In this guide, only the concentrations of COCs are considered to be in scope. Residual background radioactivity is out of scope.

4.12 Structure and Components of This Guide: 

4.12.1 The user of this guide should review the overall structure and components of this guide before proceeding with use, including:

Section 1


Section 2

Referenced Documents

Section 3


Section 4

Significance and Use

Section 5

Overview of Representative Background Concentration Development Process

Section 6

Development of Candidate Background Data Sets

Section 7

Evaluation of Candidate Background Data Sets to Obtain Representative Background Data Sets

Section 8

Data Visualization

Section 9

Evaluation of High Nondetect Data Points

Section 10

Evaluation of Outlying Data Points

Section 11

Forensic Chemistry Evaluation of Organic Contaminants

Section 12

Geochemical Evaluation of Metals

Section 13

Methodology Application to Develop a Representative Background Data Set from a Candidate Background Data Set

Section 14

Development of Representative Background Concentrations

Section 15

Comparison of Sediment Site and Representative Background Data Sets Using Statistical Two-Sample Testing

Section 16


Appendix X1

Organic and Inorganic Chemistry Overview

Appendix X2

Illustrative Case Studies from One Example Sediment Site

Appendix X3

Summaries for Outlier Testing and Two-Sample Statistical Testing




1.1 This guide describes data visualization, statistical, forensic chemistry and geochemical methodologies (including case studies) used in the evaluation of candidate background data sets; this evaluation leads to the development of representative background data sets for the sediment site. Statistical methodologies can then be applied to the representative background data sets to develop background threshold values (BTVs) that are measures of the upper limit of representative sediment background concentrations for the sediment site. In addition, representative background data sets and sediment site data sets can be compared using two-sample statistical tests to determine if there are statistically significant differences (at a specified confidence level) between the two data sets (such as, the median or mean values of the two data sets are significantly different).

1.1.1 This guide is intended to inform, complement, and support, but not supersede the guidelines established by local, state, tribal, federal, or international agencies.

1.2 Technically defensible representative sediment background concentrations are critical for several purposes (1).2 These include sediment site delineation, establishing remedial goals and cleanup levels, remedy selection, assessment of risks posed by representative background concentrations, and establishing appropriate post-remedial monitoring plans.

1.3 The overarching framework for the development of representative sediment background concentrations at sediment sites is presented in Guide E3382. Guide E3240 provides a general discussion of how conceptual site model (CSM) development fits into the risk-based corrective action framework for contaminated sediment sites, while Guide E3382 provides a detailed discussion of the elements of a sediment site CSM that need to be considered when developing representative sediment background concentrations. Guide E3344 describes how to select an appropriate background reference area(s) from which to collect sediment samples for laboratory analysis. Guide E3164 describes the sampling methodologies to obtain sediment samples in the field (whether from the sediment site or background reference area[s]), while Guide E3163 discusses appropriate laboratory methodologies for the chemical analysis of potential contaminants of concern (PCOCs) in the sediment samples. Relevant content contained in Guides E3344 and E3382 is summarized herein, but the individual guides should be consulted for more detailed coverage of these topics.

1.4 This guide focuses on the approach for the development of representative sediment background concentrations used for remedial actions performed under various regulatory programs, including the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). Although many of the references cited in this guide are CERCLA oriented, the guide is applicable to remedial actions performed under local, state, tribal, federal, and international cleanup programs. However, the guide does not describe requirements for each jurisdiction. The requirements for the regulatory entity under which the cleanup is being performed should be reviewed to confirm compliance.

1.5 This guide is designed to apply to contaminated sediment sites where sediment data have been collected and are readily available. Additionally, this guide assumes that risk assessments have been performed, so that the contaminants of concern (COCs) that exceed risk-based thresholds have been identified.

1.5.1 Furthermore, this guide presumes that the identified risk-based thresholds are low enough to pose corrective action implementation challenges, or the site is subject to recontamination from uncontrolled ongoing anthropogenic or natural sources, or both. In all cases, representative sediment background concentrations will be useful for determining the extent of corrective remedial actions (when used as remedial goals or cleanup levels), evaluating risks posed by representative background concentrations, and establishing appropriate post-remedial monitoring plans.

1.6 Units—The values stated in SI or CGS units are to be regarded as standard. No other units of measurement are included in this standard.

1.7 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.

1.8 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: 11.05
Developed by Subcommittee: E50.04
Pages: 42
DOI: 10.1520/E3242-23
ICS Code: 13.020.30; 13.080.99