Two years after the Hebei Spirit oil spill: residual crude-derived hydrocarbons and potential AhR-mediated activities in coastal sediments

Seongjin Hong, Jong Seong Khim, Jongseong Ryu, Jinsoon Park, Sung Joon Song, Bong-Oh Kwon, Kyungho Choi, Kyunghee Ji, Jihyun Seo, Sangwoo Lee, Jeongim Park, Woojin Lee, Yeyong Choi, Kyu Tae Lee, Chan-Kook Kim, Won Joon Shim, Jonathan E Naile, John P Giesy
Environmental Science & Technology 2012 February 7, 46 (3): 1406-14
The Hebei Spirit oil spill occurred in December 2007 approximately 10 km off the coast of Taean, South Korea, on the Yellow Sea. However, the exposure and potential effects remain largely unknown. A total of 50 surface and subsurface sediment samples were collected from 22 sampling locations at the spill site in order to determine the concentration, distribution, composition of residual crudes, and to evaluate the potential ecological risk after two years of oil exposure. Samples were extracted and analyzed for 16 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), 20 alkyl-PAHs, 15 aliphatic hydrocarbons, and total petroleum hydrocarbons using GC-MSD. AhR-mediated activity associated with organic sediment extracts was screened using the H4IIE-luc cell bioassay. The response of the benthic invertebrate community was assessed by mapping the macrobenthic fauna. Elevated concentrations of residual crudes from the oil spill were primarily found in muddy bottoms, particularly in subsurface layers. In general, the bioassay results were consistent with the chemistry data in a dose-dependent manner, although the mass-balance was incomplete. More weathered samples containing greater fractions of alkylated PAHs exhibited greater AhR activity, due to the occurrence of recalcitrant AhR agonists present in residual oils. The macrobenthic population distribution exhibits signs of species-specific tolerances and/or recolonization of certain species such as Batillaria during weathering periods. Although the Hebei Spirit oil spill was a severe oil exposure, it appears the site is recovering two years later.

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