Incorporation, distribution and fate of saturated petroleum hydrocarbons in sediments from a controlled marine ecosystem

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A simulation of a chronic input of petroleum into an estuarine environment was investigated using the facilities at the Marine Ecosystems Research Laboratory at University of Rhode Island. An oil-water dispersion of No. 2 fuel oil was added to the system (twice weekly for 24 weeks) and the saturated hydrocarbons from this oil were measured in suspended material and sediments. After the initial chronic oil addition, trace amounts of hydrocarbons were detected in the sediments within two weeks, but substantial accumulation was not detected for approximately 135 days. The oil appeared to enter the sediment via the suspended material, with most of the saturated hydrocarbons associated with smaller size sediment particles (< 45 μm to > 0·3 μm). With time, the fuel oil saturated hydrocarbons in the sediments were mixed to a depth of 3 to 4 cm. Although only 12% of the total saturated hydrocarbons added to the system were found in the sediments, these hydrocarbons appear to be relatively stable and were still detectable in these sediments for at least six months after the last oil addition. © 1980.

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Marine Environmental Research