Estimation of potential impacts and natural resource damages of oil

Deborah French McCay, Jill Jennings Rowe, Nicole Whittier, Sankar Sankaranarayanan, Dagmar Schmidt Etkin
Journal of Hazardous Materials 2004 February 27, 107 (1): 11-25
Methods were developed to estimate the potential impacts and natural resource damages resulting from oil spills using probabilistic modeling techniques. The oil fates model uses wind data, current data, and transport and weathering algorithms to calculate mass balance of fuel components in various environmental compartments (water surface, shoreline, water column, atmosphere, sediments, etc.), oil pathway over time (trajectory), surface distribution, shoreline oiling, and concentrations of the fuel components in water and sediments. Exposure of aquatic habitats and organisms to whole oil and toxic components is estimated in the biological model, followed by estimation of resulting acute mortality and ecological losses. Natural resource damages are based on estimated costs to restore equivalent resources and/or ecological services, using Habitat Equivalency Analysis (HEA) and Resource Equivalency Analysis (REA) methods. Oil spill modeling was performed for two spill sites in central San Francisco Bay, three spill sizes (20th, 50th, and 95th percentile volumes from tankers and larger freight vessels, based on an analysis of likely spill volumes given a spill has occurred) and four oil types (gasoline, diesel, heavy fuel oil, and crude oil). The scenarios were run in stochastic mode to determine the frequency distribution, mean and standard deviation of fates, impacts, and damages. This work is significant as it demonstrates a statistically quantifiable method for estimating potential impacts and financial consequences that may be used in ecological risk assessment and cost-benefit analyses. The statistically-defined spill volumes and consequences provide an objective measure of the magnitude, range and variability of impacts to wildlife, aquatic organisms and shorelines for potential spills of four oil/fuel types, each having distinct environmental fates and effects.

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