ERDC Researcher Recognized For Leadership Impacting Contaminated Sediment Standards

Burton Suedel, a research biologist at the Environmental Laboratory of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), has been recognized by ASTM International for his leadership on a four-year project to develop a guide for risk-based corrective action for contaminated sediment sites.

ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) International presented Suedel with a Distinguished Service Award in October for his role in leading the working group, which included members from public companies, trade groups, government agencies and environmental consultancies, in developing the set of guidelines.

“I was completely caught off guard and humbled by being recognized by ASTM,” Suedel said. “The work itself is its own reward, and if someone recognizes your effort, that’s the icing on the cake. We started with over a hundred people four years ago and ended up with a smaller group. I was one of two people who took a leadership role in bringing the guide to publication.”

Handling contaminated sediments is an important issue, both nationally and internationally, that affects urban and rural bodies of water alike, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) said in announcing the award. Until the release of the guide from ASTM International, there was no clear, comprehensive, universally accepted guide that dredging operators could reference for sediment corrective action for both small and large sites. The management of contaminated sediment material is an expensive endeavor, Suedel said.

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“Contaminated dredged material management costs USACE hundreds of millions of dollars every year,” Suedel said. “Consequently, the development of this standard guide has significant implications for how these sediments are managed. The improved management of contaminated dredged sediment will save USACE millions of dollars in dredging management costs in the future.”

ERDC Deputy Director Beth Fleming said the successful development of the guide is a testament to Suedel’s leadership.

“It takes a leader to bring a diverse group like this to a consensus on international standards,” Fleming said. “Burton demonstrated how effective he is in this and other roles on behalf of ERDC and USACE.”

Funding for the project came from the Corps’ Dredging Operations Technical Support program.

“DOTS supports subject matter experts and provides technical expertise on dredging and navigation to help inform policy,” Suedel explained.

Besides his leadership of the ASTM International project, Suedel also serves as a Corps representative to the World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure (PIANC) and is the principal U.S. representative on PIANC’s Environmental Commission. While serving on the contaminated sediment group, Suedel also drew on experience from the 1990s, when he worked in an environmental consulting capacity.

“The starting point for the current guide is risk-based corrective action, or RBCA,” Suedel said, pronouncing the acronym as Rebecca. “Risk assessment, which is its own discipline, risk management and corrective action are the underlying framework of RBCA. All RBCA standards have to have those three attributes.”

Suedel thanked Paul Schroeder, also part of the ERDC Environmental Laboratory team, for bringing his knowledge and experience with contaminated sediment management to the project.

“Paul has 30-plus years of experience there, and that expertise came in handy,” Suedel said. “Paul played a meaningful role throughout the four years, which says a lot about his commitment to the cause.”

Suedel also pointed to ERDC’s strong partnerships both inside and outside the Corps as building a strong foundation for developing the set of guidelines.

“Our expertise in the area of assessing and managing contaminated sediment risks enhances our capabilities to support USACE field operations and expands collaboration opportunities with our cooperative research and development agreement partners,” he said.

For more information on the Standard Guide for Risk-Based Corrective Action for Contaminated Sediment Sites, go to www.astm.org and search for standard “E3240-20.”