Guidelines for ocean disposal site baseline or trend assessment surveys under section 102 of the Act.
The purpose of a baseline or trend assessment survey is to determine the physical, chemical, geological, and biological structure of a proposed or existing disposal site at the time of the survey. A baseline or trend assessment survey is to be regarded as a comprehensive synoptic and representative picture of existing conditions; each such survey is to be planned as part -of a continual monitoring program through which changes in conditions at a disposal site can be documented and assessed. Surveys will be planned in coordination with the ongoing programs of NOAA and other Federal, State, local, or private agencies with missions in the marine environment. The field survey data collection phase of a disposal site evaluation or designation study shall be planned and conducted to obtain a body of information both representative of the site at the time of study and obtained by techniques reproducible in precision and accuracy in future studies. A full plan of study which will provide a record of sampling, analytical, and data reduction procedures must be developed, documented and approved by the EPA management authority. Plans for all surveys which will produce information to be used in the preparation of environmental impact statements will be approved by the Administrator or his designee. This plan of study also shall be incorporated as an appendix into a technical report on the study, together with notations describing deviations from the plan required in actual operations. Relative emphasis on individual aspects of the environment at each site will depend on the type of wastes disposed of at the site and the manner in which such wastes are likely to affect the local environment, but no major feature of the disposal site may be neglected. The observations made and the data obtained are to be based on the information necessary to evaluate the site for ocean dumping. The parameters measured will be those indicative, either directly or indirectly, of the immediate and long-term impact of pollutants on the environment at the disposal site and adjacent land or water areas. An initial disposal site evaluation or designation study should provide an immediate baseline appraisal of a particular site, but it should also be regarded as the first of a series of studies to be continued as long as the site is used for waste -disposal.
Baseline or trend assessment surveys will be conducted with due regard for climatic and seasonal impact on stratification and other conditions in the upper layers of the water column. Where a choice of season is feasible, trend assessment surveys should be made during those months when pollutant accumulation within disposal sites is likely to be most severe, or when pollutant impact within disposal sites is likely to be most -noticeable.
Where disposal sites are near large riverine inflows to the ocean, surveys will be done with due regard for the seasonal variation in river flow. In some cases several surveys at various river flows may be necessary before a site can be approved.
When initial surveys show that seasonal variation is not significant and surveys at greater than seasonable intervals are adequate for characterizing a site, resurveys shall be carried out in climatic conditions as similar to those of the original surveys as possible, particularly in depths less than 200 meters.
The actual duration of a field survey will depend upon the size and depth of the site, weather conditions during the survey, and the types of data to be collected. For example, for a survey of an area of 100 square miles on the continental shelf, including an average dump site and the region contiguous to it, an on-site operation would be scheduled for completion within one week of weather suitable for on-site operations. More on-site operating time may be scheduled for larger or highly complex sites.
Numbers and locations of sampling stations.
The numbers and locations of sampling stations will depend in part on the local bathymetry with minimum numbers of stations per site fixed as specified in the following sections. Where the bottom is smooth or evenly sloping, stations for water column measurements and benthic sampling and collections, other than trawls, shall be spaced throughout the survey area in a manner planned to provide maximum coverage of both the disposal site and contiguous control areas, considering known water movement characteristics. Where there are major irregularities in the bottom topography, such as canyons or gullies, or in the nature of the bottom, sampling stations for sediments and benthic communities shall be spaced to provide representative sampling of the major different features.
Sampling shall be done within the dump site itself and in the contiguous area. Sufficient control stations outside a disposal site shall be occupied to characterize the control area environment at least as well as the disposal site itself. Where there are known persistent currents, sampling in contiguous areas shall include at least two stations downcurrent of the dump site, and at least two stations upcurrent of the site.
Measurements in the water column at and near the dump site—
Water quality parameters measured.
These shall include the major indicators of water quality, particularly those likely to be affected by the waste proposed to be dumped. Specifically included at all stations are measurements of temperature, dissolved oxygen, salinity, suspended solids, turbidity, total organic carbon, pH, inorganic nutrients, and chlorophyll a.
At one station near the center of the disposal site, samples of the water column shall be taken for the analysis of the following parameters: Mercury, cadmium, copper, chromium, zinc, lead, arsenic, selenium, vanadium, beryllium, nickel, pesticides, petroleum hydrocarbons, and persistent organoha--logens. These samples shall be preserved for subsequent analysis by or under the direct supervision of EPA laboratories in accordance with the approved plan of study.
These parameters are the basic requirements for all sites. For the evaluation of any specific disposal site additional measurements may be required, depending on the present or intended use of the site. Additional parameters may be selected based on the materials likely to be in wastes dumped at the site, and on parameters likely to be affected by constituents of such wastes. Analysis for other constituents characteristic of wastes discharged to a particular disposal site, or of the impact of such wastes on water quality, will be included in accordance with the approved plan of study.
Water quality sampling requirements.
The number of samples collected from the water column should be suf-ficient to identify representative changes throughout the water column such as to avoid short-term impact due to disposal activities. The following key locations should be considered in selecting water column depths for sampling:
Surface, below interference from surface waves;
Middle of the surface layer;
Bottom of the surface layer;
Middle of the thermocline or halocline, or both if present;
Near the top of the stable layer beneath a thermocline or halocline;
Near the middle of a stable layer;
As near the bottom as feasible;
Near the center of any zone showing pronounced biological activity or lack thereof.
In very shallow waters where only a few of these would be pertinent, as a minimum, surface, mid-depth and bottom samples shall be taken, with samples at additional depths being added as indicated by local conditions. At disposal sites far enough away from the influence of major river inflows, ocean or coastal currents, or other features which might cause local perturbations in water chemistry, a minimum of 5 water chemistry stations should be occupied within the boundaries of a site. Additional stations should be added when the area to be covered in the survey is more than 20 square miles or when local perturbations in water chemistry may be expected because of the presence of one of the features mentioned above. In zones where such impacts are likely, stations shall be distributed so that at least 3 stations are occupied in the transition from one stable regime to another. Each water column chemistry station shall be replicated a minimum of 2 times during a survey except in waters over 200 meters deep.
Water column biota.
Sampling stations for the biota in the water column shall be as near as feasible to stations used for water quality; in addition at least two night-time stations in the disposal site and contiguous area are required. At each station vertical or oblique tows with appropriately-meshed nets shall be used to assess the microzooplankton, the nekton, and the macrozooplankton, Towing times and distances shall be sufficient to obtain representative samples of organisms near water quality stations. Organisms shall be sorted and identified to taxonomic levels necessary to identify dominant organisms, sensitive or indicator organisms, and organism diversity. Tissue samples of representative species shall be analyzed for pesticides, persistent organohalogens, and heavy metals. Discrete water samples shall also be used to quantitatively assess the phytoplankton at each station.
These requirements are the minimum necessary in all cases. Where there are discontinuities present, such as thermoclines, haloclines, convergences, or upwelling, additional tows shall be made in each water mass as appropriate.
Measurements of the benthic region—
Samples of the bottom shall be taken for both sediment composition and structure, and to determine the nature and numbers of benthic biota.
At each station sampling may consist of core samples, grab samples, dredge samples, trawls, and bottom photography or television, where available and feasible, depending on the nature of the bottom and the type of disposal site. Each type of sampling shall be replicated sufficiently to obtain a representative set of samples. The minimum numbers of replicates of successful samples at each continental shelf station for each type of device mentioned above are as follows:
Lesser numbers of replicates may be allowed in water deeper than 200 meters, at those sites where pollution impacts on the bottom are unlikely in the judgment of the EPA management authority.
Selection of bottom stations will be based to a large extent on the bottom topography and hydrography as determined by the bathymetric survey. On the continental shelf, where the bottom has no significant discontinuities, a bottom station density of at least three times the water column stations is recommended, depending on the type of site being evaluated. Where there are significant differences in bottom topography, additional stations shall be occupied near the discontinuity and on each side of it. Beyond the continental shelf, lesser densities may be used.
Sufficient tracklines shall be run to develop complete bottom coverage of bathymetry with reasonable assurance of accurate coverage of bottom topography, with trackline direction and spacing as close as available control allows. The site itself is to be developed at the greatest density possible, with data to be collected to a suitable distance about the site as is required to identify major changes in bathymetry which might affect the site. Specifications for each bathymetric survey will vary, depending on control, bottom complexity, depths, equipment, and map scale required. In most cases, a bathymetric map at a scale of 1:25,000 to 1:10,000 will be required, with a minimum of 1-5 meter contour interval except in very flat areas. When the foregoing bathymetric detail is available from recent surveys of the disposal site, bathymetry during a baseline or trend assessment survey may be limited to sonar profiles of bathymetry on transects between sampling stations.
Nature of bottom.
The size distribution of sediments, mineral character and chemical quality of the bottom will be determined to a depth appropriate for the type of bottom. The following parameters will be measured at all stations: Particle size distribution, major mineral constituents, texture, settling rate, and organic carbon.
At several stations near the center of the disposal site, samples of sediments shall be taken for the analysis of the following parameters: Mercury, cadmium, copper, chromium, zinc, lead, arsenic, selenium, vanadium, beryllium, nickel, pesticides, persistent organohalogens, and petroleum hydrocarbons. These samples shall be preserved for subsequent analysis by or under the direct supervision of EPA laboratories in accordance with the approved plan of study.
These parameters are the basic requirements for all sites. For the evaluation of any specific disposal site additional measurements may be required, depending on the present or intended use of the site. Additional parameters may be selected based on the materials likely to be in wastes dumped at the site, and on parameters likely to be affected by constituents of such wastes. Such additional parameters will be selected by the EPA management authority.
This shall consist of a quantitative and qualitative evaluation of benthic communities including macroinfauna and macroepifauna, meiobenthos, and microbenthos, and should include an appraisal, based on existing information, of the sensitivity of indigenous species to the waste proposed to be discharged. Organisms, shall be sorted, and identified to taxonomic levels necessary to identify dominant organisms, sensitive or indicator organisms, and organism diversity. Tissue samples of the following types of organisms shall be analyzed for persistent organohalogens, pesticides, and heavy metals:
A predominant species of demersal fish;
The most abundant macro-in-faunal species; and
A dominant epifaunal species, with particular preference for a species of economic importance.
The direction and speed of water movement shall be characterized at levels appropriate for the site and type of waste to be dumped. Where depths and climatic conditions are great enough for a thermocline or halocline to exist, the relationship of water movement to such a feature shall be characterized.
When current meters are used as the primary source of hydrodynamic data, at least 4 current meter stations with at least 3 meters at depths appropriate for the observed or expected discontinuities in the water column should be operated for as long as possible during the survey. Where feasible, current meters should be deployed at the initiation of the survey and recovered after its completion. Stations should be at least a mile apart, and should be placed along the long axis of the dumping site. For dumping sites more than 10 miles along the long axis, one current meter station every 5 miles should be operated. Where there are discontinuities in surface layers, e.g., due to land runoff, stations should be operated in each water mass.
Water mass movement.
Acceptable methods include: dye, drogues, surface drifters, side scan sonar, bottom drifters, and bottom photography or television. When such techniques are the primary source of hydrodynamic data, coverage should be such that all significant hydrodynamic features likely to affect waste movement are measured.
Observations of sea state and of standard meteorological parameters shall be made at 8-hour intervals.
Observations shall be made of oil slicks, floating materials, and other visible evidence of pollution; and, where possible, collections of floating materials shall be made.
Survey procedures and techniques.
Techniques and procedures used for sampling and analysis shall represent the state-of-the-art in oceanographic survey and analytical practice. Survey plans shall specify the methods to be used and will be subject to approval by EPA.
The EPA management authority may require that certain samples be submitted on a routine basis to EPA laboratories for analysis as well as being analyzed by the surveyor, and that EPA personnel participate in some field surveys.