Role of freshwater in the persistence of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in a wave-exposed beach

A. Abdollahi-Nasab, Michel Boufadel, X. L. Geng

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

More than 20 years after 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska, the oil still persists on some of the previously polluted beaches. As part of the investigation for the persistence of oil, we conducted a field study for water flow and solute transport along a clean transect of a tidal beach in Smith Island, Prince William Sound (PWS), Alaska that was heavily polluted by the spill. Field measurements of water table and pore water salinity were obtained, and the results were modeled numerically by the model MARUN (MARUN is a finite element model capable of simulating water flow and solute transport in variably saturated media while taking into account the effect of salt concentration on water density and viscosity). A random-walk particle tracking code was also used to investigate the flow path in the sediment. The simulations reproduced the observed water table and salinity accurately. The results suggested that the beach has two layers of very different hydraulic properties: A high permeability upper layer underlain by a low permeability layer. Particle tracking results indicated that the average pore water velocity in the upper layer and lower layer was 8 m/hour and 5.7×10-3 m/hour, respectively. We believe that due to the high freshwater recharge into this beach, the water table always remained above the interface of the two layers. Therefore, oil could not penetrate into the lower layer and persist there for a long period of time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationWorld Environmental and Water Resources Congress 2013
Subtitle of host publicationShowcasing the Future - Proceedings of the 2013 Congress
Pages540-549
Number of pages10
StatePublished - Nov 18 2013
EventWorld Environmental and Water Resources Congress 2013: Showcasing the Future - Cincinnati, OH, United States
Duration: May 19 2013May 23 2013

Publication series

NameWorld Environmental and Water Resources Congress 2013: Showcasing the Future - Proceedings of the 2013 Congress

Other

OtherWorld Environmental and Water Resources Congress 2013: Showcasing the Future
CountryUnited States
CityCincinnati, OH
Period5/19/135/23/13

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology

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