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Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution scientists respond to Buzzards Bay oil spill

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) scientists from diverse disciplines have responded to the April 27 spill of nearly 15,000 gallons of No. 6 fuel oil into Buzzards Bay, drawing on decades of experience studying the effects of oil spills on the marine and coastal environment.

Marine chemists have collected dozens of oil samples spilled into Buzzards Bay by the barge Bouchard 120 to determine the chemical composition of the petroleum spilled and its potential toxicity. Biologists and graduate students are participating in other aspects of the spill response, including assisting medical teams trying to rehabilitate oil-soaked wildlife. Teams will continue sampling and assisting various recovery efforts as part of the Institution's long-term interest and involvement in oil pollution research and its impact on society.

Plans are underway for Institution staff who have worked on the inputs, fates and effects of oil in the marine environment through the past 35 years to brief local officials in communities surrounding Buzzards Bay about the current state of knowledge on oil pollution in the marine environment in general, and what marine scientists have learned over the years about oil spills since the 1969 Buzzards Bay oil spill off West Falmouth. That spill, approximately 175,000 gallons of No. 2 fuel oil, is considered a baseline for studies of the long-term fate and effects of petroleum hydrocarbons in marine sediments. WHOI scientists have been studying the West Falmouth site regularly since 1969 and still find residues of the oil in salt marsh sediments.

Assistant Scientist Christopher Reddy of the Institution's Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Department and colleagues Robert Nelson, Li Xu and Emily Peacock have been sampling the recent spill of No. 6 fuel oil from the barge Bouchard 120 since the spill was first reported. Approximately 20 water samples and several floating pancakes of oil were collected April 28 as far south as Cu
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Contact: Shelley Dawicki
media@whoi.edu
508-289-3340
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
7-May-2003


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