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Dispersant from Deepwater Horizon spill found to persist in the environment
Date:7/16/2014

ing is that the sand patties we're finding on beaches four years after the spill have DOSS in them. That was somewhat unexpected."

White and her colleague Chris Reddy at WHOI have been monitoring the beaches for oiled samples since the time of the spill. This fieldwork is part of an effort to gain as much understanding about the geographical and temporal distribution of the sand patties.

For this study, which was funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GOMRI), White and her team at Haverford developed a method to isolate the DOSS from the solid sand patties. Prior to this study, dispersant had only been analyzed in aqueous samples. White then sent the isolated compounds to Kujawinski's lab at WHOI, where researchers used sophisticated instruments to quantify the DOSS in samples collected from environments known to contain oil persisting from the DWH oil spill.

"The amounts we detected are quite small, but we're finding this compound in locations where we expected the dispersants to disappear, either by dissolving in water or by being degraded by bacteria," said Kujawinski.

What does the presence of DOSS in deep-sea sediments and corals and in sand patties on Gulf beaches mean for marine life or for the people who frequent the beaches? The scientists say the honest answer is they don't really know.

"It's hard to say because we don't know how toxic it might be. The EPA has determined what concentrations of DOSS may be harmful to marine life in the water, but the toxicity of DOSS in solid (non-aqueous) forms like sediments or sand patties is not known," said White. "We know that if you measure 'x' amount of this compound in 'y' amount of water, that's toxic. But you can't compare those numbers to what we've found in the sand patties because we're looking at this compound in a mixture of sand and oil."

Until more is known about the toxicity of oil and dispersant mixtures, some Gulf beaches have signs
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Contact: WHOI Media Office
media@whoi.edu
508-289-3340
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Source:Eurekalert  

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