June 19, 2008

Polluted River Sediment Treatment Tested

U.S. scientists say they've started a two-year experiment testing a new method of dealing with polluted sediment in coastal waterways.

The University of New Hampshire researchers are in a polluted sediment mud flat at the edge of the Cocheco River near downtown Dover, N.H.

Rather than dredging or burying the sediment under sand, the researchers are using geotextile mats to cap and stabilize the pollution in place.

Led by Associate Professor Kevin Gardner and Research Assistant Professor Jeffrey Melton, a team of students will spend two years monitoring the mats' effectiveness.

We need to know how these mats behave when they're buried under mud for a few years, compared to how they performed in the lab, said Melton. What will happen to them in this intertidal zone with boats, waves, birds, and weather? How will they impact bugs and other aquatic life in the sediment?

The project is funded by the Cooperative Institute for Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology -- a partnership of the university and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the New Hampshire Sea Grant.