Recovery of Shoreline Ecosystems Following the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill and Subsequent Treatment

by Alan J. Mearns, Natl Oceanic and Atomospheric, Administration, Seattle, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Coastal Zone '93


High-pressure, hot-water washing was evaluated as one of several countermeasures for cleaning oiled shorelines. This was the primary treatment method for nearly all treated shorelines in Prince William Sound, Alaska following the Exxon Valdez oil spill. In addition to removing surface oil, it removed or debilitated much of the mid-intertidal shoreline marine life. Moinitoring was conducted at least annually, 1990 through 1992, to determine the extent to which this treatment enhanced or delayed recovery of epibiota and infauna. Chemical, physical, and biological sampling was conducted at more than 30 unoiled, oiled, and oiled and treated sites. Oil concentrations in surface sediments and bivalve mollusks decreased over time, but oil in various stages of weathering and degradation was present at all oiled sites throughout the investigation. By September 1991, the diversity of epibiota and infauna at oiled but untreated sites was restored to conditions similar to those at unoiled sites. By contrast, recovery of various species and measures of community structure at treated sites continues to lag and may take several more years to recover.

Subject Headings: Hazardous materials spills | Shoreline protection | Ecosystems | Pollution | Site investigation | Sediment | Chemical treatment | Alaska | United States

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