Une procédure d'évaluation des risques pour l'écosystème aquatique engendrés par un dépôt de matériaux de dragage dans une gravière type a été élaborée, et testée avec des échantillons de sédiments d'un canal du Nord-Est de la France. La procédure comporte une étape d'évaluation sommaire des risques, à partir de quotients des concentrations mesurées par les critères de danger correspondants, et une étape d'évaluation détaillée où des essais de toxicité et de lixiviation en colonnes sont mis en œuvre. Le scénario testé retient trois hypothèses, qui concernent (a) les effets sur les peuplements d'invertébrés benthiques, représentés notamment par Hyalella azteca et Chironomus riparius, (b) les effets sur les peuplements d'organismes pélagiques, représentés par Chlorella vulgaris, Ceriodaphnia dubia, et Brachionus calyciflorus, et (c) la pollution de la nappe alluviale associée. Différentes modalités d'exposition (essais normalisés, microcosmes) ont été testées. Dans le contexte particulier des trois sédiments étudiés, ces hypothèses se sont avérées plus ou moins discriminantes, la pollution de la nappe étant la plus sensible. Des améliorations de la procédure doivent être envisagées qui concernent à la fois la formulation des hypothèses (risques à court et long terme sur les organismes pélagiques), et les protocoles d'essai, tant pour les organismes du sédiment (rôle de la nourriture notamment) que pour les essais de lixiviation en colonnes.
- évaluation de risque,
- quotient de risque,
When contaminated by metals or synthetic organic compounds, dredged sediments may have negative impacts on receiving ecosystems. Therefore, there is a need for an operational risk assessment approach. Such a framework is proposed for dredged material deposits in open gravel quarries, which is a rather common means of disposal in France. The first step of the assessment relies upon chemical characterisation of the sediments; the resulting concentrations are divided by "probable effect concentrations" and pooled together, in order to calculate a global hazard quotient. According to the value of this quotient, several decisions can be taken: (a) undertake a detailed risk assessment, (b) dispose of the materials without further constraints, or (c) in case of uncertainty, do some biological testing (with Hyalella azteca and Chironomus riparius) in order to allow decisions. The second step is a detailed ecological risk assessment. Three different assessment endpoints have been proposed, which are (1) the deposit should have no effect on the structure and abundance of benthic invertebrates in the quarry, (2) it should have no long term effect on pelagic species, and (3) it should not cause groundwater pollution, as such quarries are in fact cross sections of shallow alluvial groundwater aquifers. A fourth assessment endpoint should be introduced, regarding health risks for recreational uses, including fishing, but this endpoint was not implemented in the current version of the approach. The analysis phase includes aquatic bioassays (bacteria - Metplate TM-, algae, microcrustaceans Ceriodaphnia dubia, rotifers Brachionus calyciflorus), and leaching assays in columns under ascendant flow.
The proposed approach was tested with 3 sediments from a canal located in the north-eastern region of France. Microcosm assays were introduced in parallel to the proposed tests, in order to explore alternatives to standardised bioassays. According to their hazard quotient, the 3 sediments showed a contamination gradient; one of them should not have entered the detailed risk assessment phase, while another would have been further tested with H. azteca and C. riparius. In that case, this latter sediment would not have entered the detailed phase either, as it was not toxic to these species. However, the detailed risk assessment approach was applied to the three sediments, so as to test completely the relevance of the framework.
The three sediments were not significantly toxic to either C. riparius or H. azteca. However, some effects were observed in microcosms, including genotoxicity to molluscs. In this case, no risk characterisation could be made. Pore waters extracted from the three sediments were not toxic or slightly toxic to bacteria, algae, and C. dubia; an EC10 value could be determined only for B. calyciflorus. Therefore, due to exposure calculations, it seems there is a risk to pelagic species. However, as 3 bioassays out of 4 were negative or inconclusive, a refinement step would seem to be necessary. The highest concentrations of cadmium, copper, chromium, nickel and zinc were measured in the first lixiviates of the most contaminated sediment. Yet, even in that case, the total extracted fraction remained less than 10% of the total load. This fraction was below 1% for the other sediments, whatever the metal. Maximum concentrations and predicted concentrations at 1 year were compared to drinking water standards. This comparison showed a real risk of degrading groundwater quality for that most contaminated sediment, and a transient risk due to cadmium and nickel for the following one on the contamination gradient.
Considering these results, the design of the first step of the proposed assessment approach may be discussed, as one sediment which would not have been assessed in depth according to its hazard quotient did show a risk to pelagic species. This discrepancy underlines the fact that some sediment toxicity may exist below the lowest threshold. As it would be unrealistic to enter systematically into detailed risk assessments, the proposed thresholds in the decision diagram must be pragmatic compromises rather than absolutely safe boundaries. Moreover, protocol improvements are needed for sediment toxicity bioassays. Chronic endpoints are preferable, as they are more sensitive and more relevant. Another issue is related to the role of additional food: not adding food may increase the apparent toxicity, but the sediment organic content, which is an alternative food source, may also be a contaminant carrier. Furthermore, the second assessment endpoint (risk to pelagic species) should be reformulated, as it includes in fact two different questions. Short-term risks related to the deposition phase could be assessed with standardised bioassays like C. dubia survival and reproduction and algal growth, while longer term risks related to contaminant diffusion could be assessed with microcosms. Genotoxic effects were observed at rather high levels, as compared to published results. This result stresses the interest of introducing sensitive and early markers in the risk assessment process, although their real meaning for ecosystems is not yet fully elucidated. Finally, the leaching tests in columns are not completely satisfactory, as the column filling implies that one must first dry the sediments, which will alter their structure. Other application trials along with field validation studies should be carried out prior to the introduction of this scenario in operational or regulatory frameworks.
- ecological risk assessment,
- risk quotient,