Trace Element Distributions in the Water Column near the Deepwater Horizon Well Blowout

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Marine Science


To understand the impact of the Deepwater Horizon well blowout on dissolved trace element concentrations, samples were collected from areas around the oil rig explosion site during four cruises in early and late May 2010, October 2010, and October 2011. In surface waters, Ba, Fe, Cu, Ni, Mn, and Co were relatively well correlated with salinity during all cruises, suggesting mixing with river water was the main influence on metal distributions in these waters. However, in deep oil/gas plumes (1000-1400 m depth), modestly elevated concentrations of Co and Ba were observed in late May, compared with postblowout conditions. Analysis of the oil itself along with leaching experiments confirm the oil as the source of the Co, whereas increased Ba was likely due to drilling mud used in the top kill attempt. Deep plume dissolved Mn largely reflected natural benthic input, though some samples showed slight elevation probably associated with the top kill. Dissolved Fe concentrations were low and also appeared largely topographically controlled and reflective of benthic input. Estimates suggest that microbial Fe demand may have affected the Fe distribution but probably not to the extent of Fe becoming a growth-limiting factor. Experiments showed that the dispersant can have some limited impact on dissolved-particulate metal partitioning.

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Environmental Science and Technology





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