On the effects of the dispersant Corexit 9500© during the degradation process of n-alkanes and PAHs in marine sediments

J V Macías-Zamora, A L Meléndez-Sánchez, N Ramírez-Álvarez, E A Gutiérrez-Galindo, M V Orozco-Borbón
Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 2014, 186 (2): 1051-61
In many coastal countries, oil spill contingency plans include several alternatives for removal of the spilled oil from the ocean. Frequently, these plans include dispersants. Because this process applies chemical substances that may add toxicity to oil that already contains toxic compounds, it is, at times, a controversial method to fight oil pollution. Additionally, local conditions may result in particular complications. We investigated the possible effects of the dispersant Corexit 9500© under conditions similar to those of subtropical oceans. We used fuel oil #6+ diesel as the test mixture. Under certain conditions, at least part of the dispersed oil may reach the sediment, particularly if the dispersant is applied in coastal waters. Nine experimental units were used in this experiment. Similar conditions of water temperature, salinity, air fluxes into the experimental units, and hydrocarbon concentrations in sediments were used. Two treatments and one control, each one with three replicates, were carried out. We concentrated our investigation on sediment, although measurements of water were also taken. Our results suggest that once the oil has penetrated the sediment, no significant differences exist between oil that contains dispersant and oil without dispersant. Noticeable degradation of aliphatic hydrocarbons occurred mainly in the low molecular weight aliphatic hydrocarbons and not in the others. Apparently, degradation of aromatics was easier than that of alkanes. However, some differences were noticed for the degradation of PAHs in the sediment, suggesting a faster degradation under particular conditions in aerobic environments such as under this experiment.

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