Hydrocarbon incorporation into the salt marsh ecosystem from the West Falmouth oil spill
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LocationBuzzards Bay, MA
West Falmouth, MA
The oil barge "Florida" ran aground just off Little Island, West Falmouth, Massachusetts on September 16, 1969. About 175,000 gallons of Number Two fuel oil leaked into Buzzards Bay and the adjacent Wild Harbor Marsh. This report presents the results of analyses done on marsh muds and organisms collected nearly a year after the spill. We studied the incorporation of polluting hydrocarbons into, and their movement through the marsh ecosystem. Analyses of surface muds agreed well with observations on plant growth. The dead areas were the most heavily polluted. A deep mud core in the dead area showed oil has penetrated to at least 70 cm. Virtually all the marsh organisms living in the contaminated area were affected by the oil at least to the extent that they accumulated oil hydrocarbons in their tissues. Our data suggest that two processes may occur as the oil passes through the marsh ecosystem. There may be a progressive loss in the straight chain hydrocarbons in relation to branched chain, cyclic and aromatic hydrocarbons. There also appears to be a selection for the higher boiling fractions of the contaminants higher up the food chain.
Originally issued as Reference No. 71-69, series later renamed WHOI-.
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