Sequential risk mitigation approaches the remediation of contaminated sediments in three phases designed to: (1) immediately reduce the ecological and human health risks associated with high levels of contamination, using methods such as the confinement or capping of high-risk materials; (2) reduce the risks associated with moderate levels of pollution to a minimum, on a less urgent schedule and at a lower cost; and (3) address areas of limited contamination through a combination of natural recovery and enhanced natural recovery (to aid or speed those natural processes). Natural recovery, the reduction of contaminant concentrations through natural processes, is based on the practical observation that overall ecosystem recovery appears to be largely a function of time. Sediment decomposition and the mixing of new and old sediments by bottom-dwelling organisms can both contribute to reduced contaminant concentrations. Knowledge of these processes-sediment decomposition, sediment mixing by bottom-dwelling organisms, and chemical residence time is critical in the development of appropriate ecosystem recovery and waste management strategies. Evaluations to support natural recovery predictions are designed to collect and evaluate information necessary to determine whether surface sediment chemical concentrations, with adequate source control, will reach the cleanup standards within a ten-year period.
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