Demonstration and validation of enhanced monitored natural recovery at a pesticide-contaminated sediment site

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Monitored natural recovery (MNR) combined with a thin-layer cap (TLC), often referred to as enhanced monitored natural recovery (EMNR), has the potential to accelerate and improve the effectiveness of MNR as a remedial strategy while minimizing widespread disturbance to the existing habitat. This study evaluated the effectiveness of a nominal 15-cm thin-layer sand cap as an EMNR remedial strategy to address sediments that were moderately contaminated with the chlorinated pesticide dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane and its derivatives, collectively DDX.

Materials and methods

Physical, chemical, and biological measurements were conducted pre-remedy placement and 2, 14, and 25 months post-placement. Measurements were used to evaluate (1) TLC stability; (2) bottom-up mixing of the TLC; (3) advection through the TLC; (4) characteristics of newly deposited sediment atop the EMNR layer compared to pre-remedy surface sediment conditions; (5) changes in contaminant bioavailability; and (6) physical impacts to the benthic community.

Results and discussion

Significant reductions were observed from measurements conducted pre- and post-placement in surface sediment (84–97%), porewater (33–75%), and tissue concentrations (Lumbriculus variegatus deployed in situ) (72–82%). A 63 to 72% decrease in DDX depositional mass flux also was observed. Multiple lines of evidence indicated that the TLC material remained stable. Deposition of suspended material with low concentrations of DDX influenced low concentrations in the surface sediments. No adverse effects were observed on the benthic invertebrate community after TLC placement, and ecological metrics indicated increases in benthic community health, even in the short time period (2 months) following TLC placement.


This demonstration showed that EMNR can be effective at reducing biological exposure in surface sediments while minimizing short-term disturbances to benthic communities at sites where MNR is a remedy option, but natural deposition rates are inadequate to achieve cleanup goals within a reasonable timeframe.

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Funding for this research was provided by the US Department of Defense Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP; Project ER-201368, leveraged with Project ER-201130). The authors would like to thank Quantico site and project managers including Donna Heric and Maria Hoidal (Marine Corps Base Quantico), Fred Evans and Lyndsay Kelsey (Naval Facilities Engineering Command Washington), and Heather Thurston (Battelle). Numerous others made significant technical contributions to the success of this work, including Marienne Colvin, Joel Guerrero, Chuck Katz, Bradley Davidson, Ernie Arias, Lewis Hsu (Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific); Mark Greenberg, Alan Humphrey, Scott Grosssman, Stephen Blaze (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency); Jonathan Mcburney (Leidos); Jennifer Arblaster (Geosyntec Consultants); Jacob Munson, Renee Dolecal (San Diego State University Research Foundation); Chris Stransky, Kelly Tait (Amec); Adrienne Cibor (Nautilus Environmental); Michelle Knowlen, Jay Word, Brian Hester (Ecoanalysts); George Christian (Normandeau Associates); Robert Diaz (Diaz and Daughters); Joe Germano (Germano and Associates); John Radford (Zebra-Tech, Ltd.); Allyson Holman, Jenifer Milam, Patricia Tuminello, Guilherme Lotufo (Engineering Research and Development Center, Army Corps of Engineers); Magdalena Rakowska, Courtney Thomas, Danny Reible (Texas Tech University); Dean Atwood, Phil Earhart (Quantico Marina); and Todd Weidner (Battelle).

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Correspondence to Victor Magar.

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Fetters, K., Rosen, G., Kirtay, V. et al. Demonstration and validation of enhanced monitored natural recovery at a pesticide-contaminated sediment site. J Soils Sediments 20, 204–219 (2020).

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  • Bioaccumulation
  • Bioavailability
  • DDX
  • Enhanced monitored natural recovery
  • Sediment remediation
  • Thin-layer cap