Managing Ocean Dumping in EPA Region 3

Region 3’s Ocean Dumping Management Program plays an essential role in keeping our oceans safe and clean, while supporting the marine transportation system and the economy. Region 3 serves Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. Region 3 encompasses ocean waters offshore of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

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Ocean Dumping Permits

Under the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA), EPA is the permitting agency for the ocean disposal of all materials except dredged material. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is the permitting agency for ocean disposal of dredged material. See below for additional information about ocean disposal of dredged material. EPA has issued MPRSA general permits for the ocean dumping of certain materials that may have a minimal adverse environmental impact and are generally disposed of in small quantities. In rare instances, EPA Regional Offices may issue an emergency, research or special ocean dumping permit to an individual or entity.

EPA Region 3 provides localized support and implements the following MPRSA general permits to ensure responsible disposal of wastes and other materials in their ocean waters:

Please visit our Ocean Dumping Permits Web page for additional information.

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Ocean Disposal of Fish Wastes

For information about the disposal of fish wastes in ocean waters, please see our Disposal of Fish Wastes Web page.

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Ocean Disposal of Dredged Material in Region 3

Split hull bargeSplit hull barge.The regulation of dredged material disposal in ocean waters is a shared responsibility of Region 3 and the USACE Norfolk District.

Under the MPRSA, USACE is the federal agency that decides whether to issue a permit authorizing the ocean disposal of dredged materials or authorize federal navigation projects involving ocean disposal of dredged materials. USACE relies on EPA’s ocean dumping criteria when evaluating permit requests for (and implementing federal projects involving) the transportation of dredged material for the purpose of dumping it into ocean waters. EPA’s ocean dumping criteria consider, among other things:

  • the need for dumping;
  • the environmental impact of the dumping, including the effect of dumping on marine ecosystems, shorelines and beaches; 
  • the effect of the dumping on esthetic, recreational or economic values;
  • the adverse effect of dumping on other uses of the ocean including navigation, scientific study, fishing and resource exploitation activities; and
  • appropriate locations and methods of disposal or recycling, including land-based alternatives.

All MPRSA permits for dredged material disposal in ocean waters, and federal projects involving dredged material disposal in ocean waters, are subject to EPA review and written concurrence. EPA may concur, concur with conditions, or decline to concur (i.e., non-concur) on the proposed permit. If EPA concurs with conditions, the final permit issued by USACE must include those conditions (for example, ocean disposal site use conditions). If EPA declines to concur on the proposed permit, the permit cannot be issued. The USACE-led review and permitting process is facilitated by early coordination, including review and approval of the sampling and analysis plan, ensuring full characterization of the project sediments proposed to be dredged.

For additional information about MPRSA permits and federal projects involving dredged material, please see Ocean Disposal of Dredged Material Web page.

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Dredged Material Testing for Ocean Disposal in Region 3

Evaluation of dredged material for ocean disposal under the MPRSA relies largely on biological tests, using standardized procedures and test organisms, also referred to as bioassays. The ocean testing manual, also known as the “Green Book,” provides national technical guidance for determining the suitability of dredged material for ocean disposal through chemical, physical and biological evaluations. The technical guidance is intended for use by dredging applicants, laboratory scientists, and regulators. Regional guidance is provided in the Regional Implementation Manual.

For more information regarding dredged material testing, including additional guidance documents, please visit our Testing and Evaluation Web page.

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Ocean Disposal Sites in Region 3

Region 3 is responsible for designating and managing ocean disposal sites for all types of materials in the Region. Appropriate management of ocean dumping sites is aimed at assuring that disposal activities will not unreasonably degrade or endanger human health and welfare, the marine environment or cause excessive economic impacts. All currently designated ocean sites in Region 3 are for the disposal of dredged material permitted or authorized under the MPRSA.

Each ocean disposal site must have a site management and monitoring plan (SMMP). Region 3, in collaboration with the USACE, is responsible for developing SMMPs for ocean dredged material disposal sites.

Region 3, often in coordination with USACE, monitors ocean dredged material disposal sites. Monitoring surveys may include, but are not limited to:

  • sediment analysis for physical properties;
  • sediment analysis for chemical contamination;
  • benthic infaunal community analysis;
  • video imagery from dive surveys, remotely-operated vehicles, or benthic sleds;
  • remote-sensing surveys including multibeam surveys and side-scan sonar surveys;
  • sediment profile imagery;
  • benthic trawls; and
  • water quality testing.

Please visit our Ocean Disposal Map and Ocean Disposal Sites Web pages to view a national map of ocean disposal sites and to learn more about site managment and monitoring under the MPRSA.

The map below presents Region 3's ocean disposal sites offshore of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

  • The size of the orange circles represents the square area of the disposal site.
  • Click on the disposal sites/vessel disposals for more information on EPA’s ocean disposal sites and vessels disposed at sea.

Descriptions of the ocean disposal sites, site management and monitoring plans, and monitoring results in Region 3 are provided below.

Dam Neck, VA Dredged Material Disposal Site

Location: 36⁰51.401’ N, 75⁰54.690’ W; 36⁰51.401’ N, 75⁰53.048’ W; 36⁰50.866’ N, 75⁰ 52.816’ W; 36⁰46.456’ N, 75⁰51.653’ W; 36⁰46.458’ N, 75⁰54.316’ W; 36⁰50.083’ N, 75⁰54.316’ W (NAD83)
Size: 8.00 square nautical miles
Depth: Average 36.09 feet
Use: Dredged material disposal
Monitoring Reports:

Norfolk, VA Dredged Material Disposal Site

Location: 36⁰59.00’ N, 75⁰39.00’ W (NAD83)
Size: 50.26 square nautical miles
Depth: 42.98 – 85.30 feet
Use: Dredged material disposal
SMMP: Norfolk SMMP
Monitoring Reports:

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Regional Dredging Teams and Other Partnerships

Region 3 established the Delaware Dredging Team. Team members cooperate in developing comprehensive regional dredged material management plans that identify short-term and long-term disposal alternatives, consider methods to reduce dredging, and maximize beneficial use of dredged materials.

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Beneficial Use

Most dredged material represents a valuable resource and should be considered for beneficial uses. Beneficial use is the placement or use of dredged material for some productive purpose from which economic, social or other benefits may be derived. Compared to disposal of dredged material in confined sites, beneficial use reduces the need for disposal. Examples of beneficial use include wetlands restoration, beach nourishment, shoreline construction, and habitat creation. The Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 404 governs discharge of dredged or fill material into “waters of the United States”, including the placement of dredged material in the territorial sea for a purpose other than disposal.

For information on dredged material permitting under CWA 404, please see our Section 404 of the Clean Water Act Web page.

Additional beneficial use documents are available on our Publications and Links Web page.

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Contact Region 3

Sherilyn Lau, 215-814-2786,

Kristin Regan, 215-814-2711,

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