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Frequently Asked Questions concerning the Florida Coastal Sediment Quality Guidelines

 

Question
Are the Florida Coastal Sediment Quality Guidelines (SQAGs), published in 1994, enforceable by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in the same manner that the department enforces surface or groundwater quality standards?

Reply
No, the SQAGs are sediment concentration guidance values to be used by project managers in assessing conditions at such areas as hazardous waste cleanup sites or wetland restoration sites. There are no state, or federal criteria or standards for contaminated sediments, with the exception of Washington state's Department of Ecology standards. The Department could consider sediment removal as an option is if there is a corresponding surface or ground water quality violation at the site. 


Question
What are the most common uses of the SQAGs

Reply
They provide guidance to FDEP regulators, private consultants, and other local officials that are concerned that a sediment or wetland may have high levels of contaminants. These SQAGs are intended to help identify priority areas for nonpoint source control (e.g., sediment hotspots due to stormwater impacts to an estuary), help design wetland restoration sites, screen contaminated sediments at waste cleanup sites, and monitor trends in environmental contamination at a site over time (e.g., at a sewage treatment plant outfall).


Question
Can the SQAGs be used to evaluate dredge spoil disposal options?

Reply
Yes, the SQAGs are useful in determining the extent of sediment contamination in sediments to be removed, however, they are not intended to be used in place of federal dredged material evaluation protocols (e.g., U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers).


Question
Is there a method to distinguish between the natural background value of metals in sediment versus the anthropogenic pollution that has occurred at the same site? 

Reply
Yes. The Department has researched this important issue and prepared a guidance document that can answer this question, The Guide to the Interpretation of Metals Concentrations in Estuarine Sediments, published in 1988. More recently, the Interpretative Tool for the Assessment of Metal Enrichment in Florida Freshwater Sediment has been released, with an interactive spreadsheet to assist with data analysis.


Question
Both the SQAGs and the Guide to the Interpretation of Metals Concentrations in Estuarine Sediments refer to coastal or estuarine sediments Can we apply these documents to freshwater settings?

Reply

Freshwater Guidelines have been developed to answer this question, and will be available in Summer of 2002. The fresh water metals interpretive tool is now available for download.

The values provided in the guidelines compare favorably to similar guidance numbers derived from freshwater studies. Florida coastal sediments have similar geochemical compositions as freshwater sediments, because both coastal and inland Florida surficial geology is dominated by marine limestones/dolostones, marine clays, and quartz-rich sand deposits. One important difference is that the amount of organic carbon is often greater in freshwater sites than in most coastal sites, especially in certain lake systems. 


Question
The marine SQAGs were published in 1994 and the Guide to the Interpretation of Metals Concentrations in Estuarine Sediments was published in 1988. Can we still use these documents today and into the next century?

Reply
Yes, the principles outlined in both documents are based on relationships that should not change significantly.


Question
Have the SQAGs of the Metals Interpretation document been through a peer review process?

Reply
Yes, the SQAGs and the metals assessment approach have been published in peer reviewed journal articles. We plan to do the same with the Freshwater Guidance.

Last updated: September 21, 2011

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