Ecological Effects and In-situ Detection of Particulate Contaminants in Aqueous Environments
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The ecological effects and mechanistic efficiency of chemical oil spill countermeasures must be evaluated prior to their ethical application during real spill response scenarios. Equally important is the ability to monitor the effectiveness of any spill response in real time, permitting informed response management. In-situ sensors are key components of such event based monitoring and continuous monitoring programs. This project investigates crude oil toxicity as a particulate suspension, suitability of in-situ instrumentation to measure crude oil suspensions, and the applicability of using acoustic backscatter to measure suspended solids and sub-surface oil droplet suspension concentrations. The ecological effects to inter- and sub-tidal sediment dwelling organisms exposed to crude oil, both treated with a chemical dispersant and un-treated, was evaluated. Elevated toxicity, expressed as percent mortality and reduced luminescence, and oil concentrations were observed in inter-tidal sediments receiving oil only treatments compared to oil-plus-dispersant treatments. Sub-tidal sediments showed heterogeneous distribution of crude oil with elevated amphipod mortality compared to no oil controls suggesting an oil-sediment aggregation mechanism. A separate laboratory scale study found that the soluble crude oil fractions were responsible for the observed mortality in pelagic species while the more dominant oil droplet fractions were relatively non-toxic. Subsequent studies focused on the in-situ detection of crude oil and particle suspensions in aqueous environments. The first showed that both in-situ fluorescence spectroscopy and Laser In-Situ Scattering Transmissometry (LISST) can effectively measure crude oil concentrations in aqueous environments. The applicability of the LISST implies that crude oil in an aqueous medium can be measured as a particle suspension. Acoustic backscatter (ABS) was investigated for its applicability as a surrogate measurement technology for aqueous particle suspensions. This study showed a log linear correlation between ABS and volume concentration (VC) over a variable particle size distribution. This correlation is due to the dependency of both ABS and VC to the particle size distribution. Log-linear ABS responses to oil-droplet suspension volume concentrations were also demonstrated. However, the inability to reproduce response factors suggests that more work is required to produce viable calibrations that may be used for sub-surface oil plume detection.
Fuller, Christopher Byron (2011). Ecological Effects and In-situ Detection of Particulate Contaminants in Aqueous Environments. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from