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Subsurface Oil From 1989 Exxon Valdez Spill In Alaska May Persist For Decades

Date:
February 5, 2007
Source:
American Chemical Society
Summary:
In a discovery that may speed commercial and industrial uses of a third family of "smart fluids," scientists in Maryland are reporting development of new photorheological (PR) fluids that can be made simply and inexpensively.

Oil from the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill persists in an only slightly weathered form below the surface at some beaches along the Gulf of Alaska after 16 years and may persist for decades, researchers have concluded in a new report. It is scheduled for publication in the Feb. 15 issue of the ACS' Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Jeffrey W. Short and colleagues analyzed subsurface oil at 10 beaches, selected at random from among oil-contaminated areas included in their 2001 and 2005 studies.

Earlier research demonstrated that buried oil could retain toxic components for years if buried in anoxic (oxygen-depleted) sediments where little decomposition from weathering occurs. The new study identified a different mechanism in which oil can be preserved in sediments that do contain oxygen. The oil persists because it exists in a thick, emulsified form sometimes termed "oil mousse" that resists weathering.

"Such persistence can pose a contact hazard to inter-tidally foraging sea otters, sea ducks, and shorebirds, create a chronic source of low-level contamination, discourage subsistence in a region where use is heavy and degrade the wilderness character of protected lands," the researchers conclude.


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The above story is based on materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Chemical Society. "Subsurface Oil From 1989 Exxon Valdez Spill In Alaska May Persist For Decades." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 February 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070205125919.htm>.
American Chemical Society. (2007, February 5). Subsurface Oil From 1989 Exxon Valdez Spill In Alaska May Persist For Decades. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070205125919.htm
American Chemical Society. "Subsurface Oil From 1989 Exxon Valdez Spill In Alaska May Persist For Decades." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070205125919.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

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