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The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill: Persistence and Remediation

Speaker: Michel C. Boufadel, Temple University
Series: CEE Departmental Seminars
Location: Friend Center 006
Date/Time: Monday, March 14, 2011, 04:30:00 p.m. - 05:30:00 p.m.


More than 60 tons of oil from the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 persist in the subsurface of gravel beaches in Prince William Sound, Alaska.  The lingering oil contains considerable amount of chemicals harmful to the environment.   We conducted field studies on six beaches in the Sound and we simulated the results using physically based models to understand the separate and combined effects of hydrology, beach stratigraphy, and ecological conditions.  We found that oil entrapment was due to a small freshwater flow from land into the beaches.  We also found that the pore water surrounding the oil has low concentrations of oxygen and nutrients, which prevented the efficient biodegradation (i.e., breakdown) of oil.  Preliminary remediation studies that we conducted suggest that bioremediation of the oil is a promising technology for mitigating the 21-year old spill.  As we are working on mitigating the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, comparison will be made if time permits.


Dr. Michel Boufadel is Professor and Chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.  He is a Professional Engineer in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and a Professional Hydrologist as accredited by the American Institute of Hydrology.  Dr. Boufadel is the Director of the Center for Natural Resources Development and Protection deals which conducts projects dealing with contaminant transport and transformation in the environment, floodplain delineation and stormwater management, and oil spills on shorelines and offshore.  The NRDP Center is currently investigating the lingering of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska (1989) and the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Dr. Boufadel is currently serving on two national committees dealing with environmental issues: The National Research Council (National Academies) committee on the Gulf spill and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Science Advisory Board on hydrofracking (Marcellus Shale).  Dr. Boufadel has more than 50 journal articles in publications such as NATURE geosciences, Environmental Science and Technology, and American Society of Engineering (ASCE) journals.