Since the BP oil spill in April, obvious concerns have risen over the water quality along Gulf Coast vacation destinations. From Galveston to Gulf Shores to Panama City, residents, businesses, and city government municipalities have been inundating local EPA offices with questions, so much so that the EPA has set up an FAQ page on its website to address some of the those concerns. On the page, the EPA assures visitors that it is actively gathering and testing water, sediment samples in states along the Gulf, as well as monitoring the toxicity in the air.

From the EPA website:

EPA is currently collecting and analyzing water and sediment samples to help states and other federal agencies understand the immediate and long-term impacts of oil contamination along the Gulf coast and to ensure that residents in affected areas have access to information about the quality of their water. The results and the interpretation of all data collected by EPA will be posted to http://www.epa.gov/bpspill as often as it is available.

A quick search of the URL listed above brings one to a page that lists some basic and rudimentary results of recent air, water, and sediment tests.

EPA surface water samples collected July 8 – 12, 2010, along the Gulf Coast found no compounds exceeding chronic water benchmarks. These results include data for compounds found in dispersants.

Surface water results collected May 21 through July 12, 2010 along the coast of Louisiana were measured for four of the chemicals associated with dispersants (2-Butoxyethanol, 2-Ethylhexyl Alcohol, Propylene Glycol, and Dioctyl sulfosuccinate) but did not detect them.

On July 16, News 5 WKRG TV in Pensacola ran a news story in which the station collected its own water samples along Gulf Shores, Orange, Katrina Key and Dauphin Island beaches. Testing for oil content in the water (rather than dispersants) – including areas where no oil was visibly present – yielded some surprising results. The tests detected  from 16 ppm to 221 ppm for oil in the samples along public beaches – results way over the level considered safe. In one test, a sample actually exploded a test container when it was mixed with the testing agent – a possible result of high levels of methane, methanol, or the dispersant Corexit.

From WKRG TV in Pensacola.


From the EPA website:
We are aware that oil is present on some beaches and marshes along the coastline and are collecting samples in or close to these areas. It takes several days from the point of collection to posting the data on the website so data posted may not reflect real-time conditions.

Map of Louisiana sampling locations

EPA_Water_sampling_JULY



EPA results for Water Quality Benchmarks for Aquatic Life

Acute Benchmark (µg/L)

Chronic Benchmark (µg/L) Citation
74 8.2 1
50 2
None None --
None None --
None None --

CHEMICAL CAS Number Acute Potency Divisor (µg/L) Chronic Potency Divisor (µg/L) Citation
PAH Mixtures** (Oil-Related Organic Compounds), µg/L

PAH Mixtures -- see NOTE see NOTE --
Benzene 71-43-2 27,000 5,300 3
Cyclohexane 110-82-7 1,900 374 3
Ethylbenzene 100-41-4 4,020 790 3
Isopropylbenzene 98-82-8 2,140 420 3
Total xylene 108-38-3 3,560 700 3
Methylcyclohexane 108-87-2 463 91.0 3
Toluene 108-88-3 8,140 1,600 3
Naphthalene 91-20-3 803 193 4
C1-Naphthalenes -- 340 81.7 4
C2-Naphthalenes -- 126 30.2 4
C3-Naphthalenes -- 46.1 11.1 4
C4-Naphthalenes -- 16.9 4.05 4
Acenaphthylene 208-96-8 1,280 307 4
Acenaphthene 83-32-9 232 55.8 4
Fluorene 86-73-7 164 39.3 4
C1-Fluorenes -- 58.1 14.0 4
C2-Fluorenes -- 22.0 5.30 4
C3-Fluorenes -- 7.99 1.92 4
Phenanthrene 85-01-8 79.7 19.1 4
Anthracene 120-12-7 86.1 20.7 4
C1-Phenanthrenes# -- 31.0 7.44 4
C2-Phenanthrenes# -- 13.3 3.20 4
C3-Phenanthrenes# -- 5.24 1.26 4
C4-Phenanthrenes# -- 2.33 0.559 4
Fluoranthene 206-44-0 29.6 7.11 4
Pyrene 129-00-0 42.0 10.1 4
C1-pyrene/fluoranthenes -- 20.3 4.89 4
Benz(a)anthracene 56-55-3 9.28 2.23 4
Chrysene 218-01-9 8.49 2.04 4
C1-Chrysenes^ -- 3.56 0.856 4
C2-Chrysenes^ -- 2.01 0.483 4
C3-Chrysenes^ -- 0.699 0.168 4
C4-Chrysenes^ -- 0.294 0.0706 4
Perylene 198-55-0 3.75 0.901 4
Benzo(b)fluoranthene 205-99-2 2.82 0.677 4
Benzo(k)fluoranthene 207-08-9 2.67 0.642 4
Benzo(e)pyrene 192-97-2 3.75 0.901 4
Benzo(a)pyrene 50-32-8 3.98 0.957 4
Indeno(1,2,3-cd)pyrene 193-39-5 1.14 0.275 4
Dibenz(a,h) anthracene 53-70-3 1.17 0.282 4
Benzo(g,h,i)perylene 191-24-2 1.83 0.439 4

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