North-Central Section - 50th Annual Meeting - 2016

Paper No. 29-12
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


LOCKMILLER, Kayla A.1, KNEESHAW, Tara2, WOLDYK, Nicholas3 and QI, Min3, (1)Geology Department, Grand Valley State University, 1 Campus Drive, Allendale, MI 49401, (2)Geology Department, Grand Valley State University, Allendale, MI 49401, (3)Grand Valley State University, Chemistry Department, Allendale, MI 49401,

Contamination of sediment with compounds derived from crude oils pose significant threats to human health as well as to the natural ecosystem. One particular class of compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are common in heavier crude oils (ex. tar sands oil), may pose long-term threats. These compounds may persist in the environment for long periods of time following a crude oil spill. As such, this study sought to evaluate the persistence of PAHs in sediment and possible correlation between PAH distribution and grain size. This was accomplished through the collection of sediment samples from a portion of river bank along the Kalamazoo River near Ceresco, MI. Five years previously, a pipeline break spilled an estimated 843,000 gallons of diluted bitumen being transported from Alberta, Canada’s Athabasca oil field. Samples were collected from two areas: 1) an area of the river bank that was reworked following the spill and 2) an area in the floodplain thought to have been inundated with oil at the time of the spill but has since remained relatively undisturbed. The samples were analyzed using gas chromatography-flame ionization detection (GC-FID) for 17 PAHs known to have potentially harmful human and ecosystem health effects. Results indicate the presence of PAHs in all samples. In addition, a detailed analysis of grain size was carried out on each sediment sample. There is some variability in the presence of specific PAHs between sample location and sediment grain size fraction, though identifying a clear correlation is complex. Since production and transportation of tar sands oil is projected to increase in the coming years, understanding the fate of PAHs in the environment is crucial to remediation preparedness. By relating the persistence of PAH compounds to grain size in a dynamic natural environment, it may be possible to better predict areas where PAHs may concentrate in future spills of tar sands oil, thus better informing future remediation efforts in similar environments.