Marine Science Faculty Publications

Distributions and Accumulation Rates of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in the Northern Gulf of Mexico Sediments

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Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), Sediment, Gulf of Mexico, Deepwater horizon oil spill, Radiocarbon (Δ14C)

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Sediment samples collected from shelf, slope and interior basin of the northern Gulf of Mexico during 2011–2013, 1–3 years after the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill, were utilized to characterize PAH pollution history, in this region. Results indicate that the concentrations of surface ΣPAH43 and their accumulation rates vary between 44 and 160 ng g−1 and 6–55 ng cm−2 y−1, respectively. ΣPAH43 concentration profiles, accumulation rates and Δ14C values are significantly altered only for the sediments in the immediate vicinity of the DWH wellhead. This shows that the impact of DWH oil input on deep-sea sediments was generally limited to the area close to the spill site. Further, the PAHs source diagnostic analyses suggest a noticeable change in PAHs composition from higher to lower molecular weight dominance which reflects a change in source of PAHs in the past three years, back to the background composition. Results indicate low to moderate levels of PAH pollution in this region at present, which are unlikely to cause adverse effects on benthic communities.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Environmental Pollution, v. 212, p. 413-423