Fate and Effects of Oil Spills
Exponent scientists were involved for over 20 years on various environmental matters in Prince William Sound (PWS), Alaska, following the 1989 Exxon Valdez tanker spill.
We began our work in the spring of 1989 assisting in environmental aspects of the emergency response, and subsequently, we set up environmental assessment and monitoring programs. Exponent scientists provided advice on analytical and chemical fate issues during the spill response and longer-term assessment, coordinating the development of chemical data by 16 laboratories nationwide. After cleanup was completed in 1992 our scientists managed and served as Principal Investigators and Chief Scientists of many projects related to NRDA Reopener and other environmental claims. Our scientists were responsible for and published widely (over 60 peer-reviewed publications and 5 book chapters) on topics such as shoreline ecology and recovery, transport and fate of oil; environmental chemical forensics (petroleum and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon [PAH]) and baseline determinations; impact and recovery monitoring; bioavailability; ecological risk assessments; and database development.
The projects have included:
- Comprehensive study of concentrations of PAHs in the water column during and shortly after the spill
- Shoreline ecology and recovery studies - PWS, Kenai Peninsula, Kodiak, and Alaskan Peninsula
- "Mussel Watch": bioavailability of PAHs from oiled beaches to mussels
- Bioavailability studies of remaining oil
- Mixed Function Oxidase and CYP1-A levels in PWS and Gulf of Alaska fish
- Chemical baseline studies: Historical contaminants and chronic PAH inputs - sediments and bivalves
- Chemical fingerprinting and source allocation of petrogenic oil inputs from natural oil seeps and eroding source rocks
- Fates and effects of oil in subtidal sediments in PWS embayments
- Impacts to and recovery of salmon and herring fisheries
- Studies of harm related to remaining oil on and in beaches
- Toxicity of oil remaining on shorelines
- Assessment of otter foraging areas vs locations of residual and risk related to same.
Throughout the period we also served as scientific advisors/consultants to ExxonMobil consulting on environmental and petroleum geochemistry, long-term effects and risks, as well as shoreline persistence and impacts.