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Long-Term Monitoring of PAH Contamination in Sediment and Recovery After the Hebei Spirit Oil Spill

Kim, Moonkoo, Jung, Jee-Hyun, Ha, Sung Yong, An, Joon Geon, Shim, Won Joon, Yim, Un Hyuk
Archives of environmental contamination and toxicology 2017 v.73 no.1 pp. 93-102
beaches, coasts, monitoring, oil spills, oils, petroleum, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, sediments, tankers, tides, wind, China, Korean Peninsula
Approximately 10,900 t of crude oil was released 10 km off the west coast of Korea after the collision between the oil tanker Hebei Spirit and a barge carrying a crane in December 2007. To assess the areal extent and temporal trends of PAH contamination, 428 sediment samples were collected from December 2007 through May 2015 for PAH analysis. Sedimentary PAH concentrations measured immediately after the spill ranged from 3.2 to 71,200 ng g⁻¹, with a mean of 3800 ng g⁻¹. Increases in PAH concentrations were observed at stations 7–23, which were heavily oiled due to tidal currents and northwesterly wind that transported the spilled oil to these locations. Mean and maximum PAH concentrations decreased drastically from 3800 to 88.5 and 71,200 to 1700 ng g⁻¹, respectively, 4 months after the spill. PAH concentrations highly fluctuated until September 2008 and then decreased slowly to background levels. Reduction rate was much faster at the sandy beaches (k = 0.016) than in the muddy sites (k = 0.001). In muddy sediments, low attenuation due to low flushing rate in the mostly anaerobic sediment possibly contributed the persistence of PAHs. By May 2015 (~7.5 years after the spill), mean and maximum PAH concentrations decreased by 54 and 481 times, respectively, compared with the peak concentrations. The sedimentary PAH concentrations in the monitoring area have returned to regional background levels.