, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 144-162

Biological effects-based sediment quality in ecological risk assessment for European waters

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An overview is given of decision making frameworks for Ecological Risk Assessment (ERA) used for sediment in a number of European countries. These frameworks fall into two categories:

  1. Biological Effects-Based Assessment of in situ risks (referred to as in situ BEBA);

  2. Biological Effects-Based Assessment of the ex situ quality of dredged sediments (referred to as ex situ BEBA).

The first approach is usually part of an evaluation of whether remediation is needed in order to control or reduce the ecological risks of sediment pollution in a given location. The purpose of the second approach is to evaluate the risks of possible (unconfined) disposal options for dredged sediment (including sediment that is dredged for navigational reasons). Important aspects are:

  1. Objectives for sediment management;

  2. The level of integration of BEBA in legal frameworks;

  3. The use of chemical (numeric) SQG’s in BEBA and their integration with biological information;

  4. The criteria used to infer effects and to classify sediment quality.

Between EU countries the basis for deriving SQG’s as well as the level of implementation of SQGs varies considerably. For use of SQGs in river basins, clearly there is a need for harmonisation of SQGs. Also, there is a large variation between EU countries with regard to the role BEBA plays in decision making frameworks. With respect to the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive, possibilities arise for harmonization of BEBA on a river basin level, especially for ex situ BEBA.