JOURNAL ARTICLE

Oil spill in the Rio de la Plata estuary, Argentina: 1. Biogeochemical assessment of waters, sediments, soils and biota

J C Colombo, A Barreda, C Bilos, N Cappelletti, S Demichelis, P Lombardi, M C Migoya, C Skorupka, G Suárez
Environmental Pollution 2005, 134 (2): 277-89
15589655
Aliphatic (ALI) and aromatic (ARO) hydrocarbon concentrations, composition and sources were evaluated in waters, sediments, soils and biota to assess the impact of approximately 1000 tons of oil spilled in Rio de la Plata coastal waters. Total ALI levels ranged from 0.4-262 microg/l in waters, 0.01-87 microg/g in sediments, 5-39 microg/g in bivalves, 12-323 microg/g in macrophytes to 948-5187 microg/g in soils. ARO varied from non-detected 10 microg/l, 0.01-1.3 mug/g, 1.0-16 microg/g, 0.5-6.9 microg/g to 22-67 microg/g, respectively. Offshore (1, 5, 15 km) waters and sediments were little affected and contained low background hydrocarbon levels reflecting an effective wind-driven transport of the slick to the coast. Six months after the spill, coastal waters, sediments, soils and biota still presented very high levels exceeding baseline concentrations by 1-3 orders of magnitude. UCM/resolved aliphatic ratio showed a clear trend of increasing decay: coastal waters (3.3) < macrophytes (6.7) < soils (9.4) < offshore sediments (13) < coastal sediments (17) < clams (52). All environmental compartments consistently indicated that the most impacted area was the central sector close to Magdalena city, specially low-energy stream embouchures and bays which acted as efficient oil traps. The evaluation of hydrocarbon composition by principal component analysis indicated the predominance of biogenic (algae, vascular plant cuticular waxes), background anthropic, pyrogenic and diagenetic hydrocarbons, offshore and in non-impacted coastal sites. In contrast, polluted stations presented petrogenic signatures characterized by the abundance of isoprenoids, low molecular weight n-alkanes and methylated aromatics in different stages of alteration. The petrogenic/biogenic ratio (<n-C22 + isoprenoids/n-C15 + n-C17 + > n-C23) and petrogenic/pyrogenic relationship (methylated/unsubstitued PAH) discriminated the samples according to the different degree of impact. The following paper present the results of the study of the progress of hydrocarbon disappearance in sediments and soils 13 and 42 months after the spill.

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