A Novel Method to Evaluate Chemical Concentrations in Muddy and Sandy Coastal Regions Before and After Oil Exposures

Publication Year


Journal Article
Oil spills can result in changes in chemical concentrations along coastlines. In prior work, these concentration changes were used to evaluate the date the sediment was impacted by oil (i.e., oil exposure date). The objective of the current study was to build upon prior work by using the oil exposure date to compute oil spill chemical (OSC) concentrations in shoreline sediments before and after exposure. The new method was applied to OSC concentration measures collected during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill with an emphasis on evaluating before and after concentrations in muddy versus sandy regions. The procedure defined a grid that overlaid coastal areas with chemical concentration measurement locations. These grids were then aggregated into clusters to allow the assignment of chemical concentration measurements to a uniform coastal type. Performance of the method was illustrated for ten chemicals individually by cluster, and collectively for all chemicals and all clusters. Results show statistically significant differences between chemical concentrations before and after the calculated oil exposure dates (p < 0.04 for each of the 10 chemicals within the identified clusters). When aggregating all chemical measures collectively across all clusters, chemical concentrations were lower before oil exposure in comparison to after (p<0.0001). Sandy coastlines exhibited lower chemical concentrations relative to muddy coastlines (p<0.0001). Overall, the method developed is a useful first step for establishing baseline chemical concentrations and for assessing the impacts of disasters on sediment quality within different coastline types. Results may be also useful for assessing added ecological and human health risks associated with oil spills.
Environmental Pollution