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Project Information

Title: Microcosm Study on the Biodegradability of Lingering Oil in Prince William Sound

Project Year and Number: 2008: 080840

Other Fiscal Years and Numbers for this Project: None

Principal Investigator (PI): Albert Venosa, US Environmental Protection Agency

Assisting Personnel: None

Research Location: Prince William Sound

Restoration Category: Research

Injured Resources Addressed: Sediments , Subtidal Organisms

Abstract: This proposal will provide important information that would help evaluate the persistence of the lingering oil in many of the Prince William Sound beaches affected by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. Because biodegradation of oil occurs at the oil-water interface, limitations occurring in the vicinity of that interface are hypothesized to be the primary reason for the lingering oil. The likely sources of limitation include: (1) environmental limitations (such as low nutrient concentrations and/or low oxygen) that would limit biodegradation, and (2) the lack of bioavailability of the oil due to its weathering or the existence of an impenetrable "skin" on the oiled sediment. This study proposes to investigate the biodegradability of the lingering oil collected from several sites still showing signs of oil in the subsurface. It will answer important questions about the biodegradability of the oil that has undergone weathering for 19 years. The laboratory study described in this proposal will provide evidence that could support decisions on whether to bioremediate the remaining oil contaminating the subsurface at selected sites in PWS. A complementary tracer study is currently ongoing in PWS to establish and understand the hydrodynamic properties of the PWS beaches that would allow the addition of nutrients, and possibly oxygen, for biostimulating the lingering oil. Results from both studies combined will provide sufficient support to aid the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council in making a decision regarding the propriety of undertaking an investigation of the applicability of bioremediation in the field.


Geographic Regions Prince William Sound
Species Microorganisims - Microbes
Fields of Expertise Chemistry
Management & Policy
Technological Methods Modeling
Oil Spill Modeling
Professional Activity Data Management
Data Synthesis/Visualization
Ecosystems Estuarine
Marine – Benthic
Species Specific Research Issues Microorganisims - Nutrient/Energy transfer

Proposal: View PDF (170 KB)

Funding Recommendations: View

Funding Detail For: 2008 , 2009

Quarterly Project Tasks For: 2008 , 2009

Annual Reports: 2008: Not Applicable 2009: #qGetAnnualReports.Status#

Final Report: In Review Prior to Publication - For More Information Please Contact Us

Publications from this Project: None Available