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Understanding Dredging

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High Level Review of Current UK Action Level Guidance

The aim of this project was to carry out a high level review of current action level guidance applied by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) to the licensing of the disposal of dredged material to sea. The project aimed to recommend whether the guidance and action levels are still appropriate and effective, or whether a more detailed review and potential revision should be undertaken.

The MMO is the licensing authority for England with regards to the disposal of dredge materials to sea and the way it regulates this activity is steered primarily by guidelines produced by OSPAR. A marine licence for the disposal of dredged materials requires characterisation of the sediments to be disposed of to enable consideration of potential adverse environmental effects of such a disposal activity. The OSPAR guidelines call for action levels to be established for chemicals on a primary list, as a minimum.

The project undertook a high level review of the current approach applied to action levels comparisons were drawn with approaches and action levels used by other OSPAR countries. An existing North American dataset of co-located whole sediment toxicity and chemical information was used to consider the effectiveness of the action levels in terms of identifying potentially toxic and non-toxic sediments.

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Information provided by Dr Andrew Birchenough, CEDA Environment Commission (Cefas, UK)