Amendments for the in situ remediation of contaminated sediments: Evaluation of potential environmental impacts

Michael H. Paller, Anna S. Knox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Active sediment caps represent a comparatively new technology for remediating contaminated sediments. They are made by applying chemically active amendments that reduce contaminant mobility and bioavailability to the sediment surface. The objective of this study was to determine if active cap amendments including organoclay, apatite, and biopolymers have the potential to harm benthic organisms. Methods included laboratory bioassays of amendment toxicity and field evaluations of amendment impacts on organisms held in cages placed within pilot-scale active caps located in Steel Creek, a South Carolina (USA) stream. Test organisms included Hyalella azteca, Leptocheirus plumulosus, Lumbriculus variegatus, and Corbicula fluminea to represent a range of feeding modes, burrowing behaviors, and both fresh and saltwater organisms. In addition to the laboratory and field assays, chemical extractions were performed to determine if the amendments contained harmful impurities that could leach into the ambient environment. Laboratory bioassays indicated that 100% apatite had minimal effects on Hyalella in freshwater and up to 25% organoclay was nontoxic to Leptocheirus in brackish water. Field evaluations indicated that pilot-scale caps composed of up to 50% apatite and 25% organoclay did not harm Hyalella, Lumbriculus, or Corbicula. In contrast, organisms in caps containing biopolymers died because of physical entrapment and/or suffocation by the viscous biopolymers. The extractions showed that the amendments did not release harmful concentrations of metals. These studies indicated that apatite and organoclay are nontoxic at concentrations (up to 50% and 25% by weight, respectively) needed for the construction of active caps that are useful for the remediation of metals and organic contaminants in sediments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4894-4900
Number of pages7
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number20
StatePublished - Sep 2010


  • Active caps
  • Apatite
  • Benthos
  • Contaminated sediments
  • Organoclay
  • Toxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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