The West Falmouth oil spill : persistence of the pollution eight months after the accident

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Blumer, M.
Sass, J.
Souza, G.
Sanders, Howard L.
Grassle, J. Frederick
Hampson, George R.
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Buzzards Bay, MA
West Falmouth, MA
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Oil pollution of the sea
Oil spills
A spill of 650,000-700,000 liters of #2 fuel oil has contaminated the coastal areas of Buzzards Bay, Mass. The present report summarizes the results of our continuing chemical and biological study which were available at the end of May 1970, more than eight months after the accident. The effects of environmental exposure on the composition of the oil are discussed; many analytical parameters are sufficiently stable to permit continued correlation of the oil remaining in sediments and organisms with the fuel oil involved in the spill. Oil from the spill is still present in the sediments, inshore and offshore and in the shellfish. A further spread of the pollution to more distant offshore regions has occurred during midwinter; as a result, the pollution now covers a much larger area than immediately after the accident. The first stages of biological (presumably bacterial) degradation of the oil are now evident especially in the least polluted regions; however, it has depleted predominantely the straight and branched chain alkanes. The more toxic aromatic hydrocarbons are resistant; as a result, the toxicity of the oil has not been diminished. Where oil can be detected in the sediments there has been a kill of animals; in the most polluted areas the kill has been almost total. Shellfish that survived the accident have taken up the fuel oil. The 1970 crop of shellfish is as heavily polluted as was last year’s crop. Oysters transplanted to unpolluted water for as long as 6 months retained the oil without change in composition or concentration.
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Blumer, M., Sass, J., Souza, G., Sanders, H. L., Grassle, J. F., & Hampson, G. R. (1970). The West Falmouth oil spill: persistence of the pollution eight months after the accident. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
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