September 29, 2010
Simple Approach Could Clean Up Oil Remaining From Exxon Valdez Spill
Traces of crude oil that linger on the shores of Alaska's Prince William Sound after the Exxon Valdez oil spill remain highly biodegradable, despite almost 20 years of weathering and decomposition, scientists are reporting in a new study. Their findings, which appear in ACS' semi-monthly journal Environmental Science & Technology, suggest a simple approach for further cleaning up remaining traces of the Exxon Valdez spill "” the largest in U.S. waters until the 2010 Deepwater Horizon episode.
Albert D. Venosa and colleagues note that bacteria, evaporation, sunlight, and other items in Mother's Nature's clean-up kit work together to break down the oil and make it disappear. Scientists have known for years that adding nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer to oil-contaminated soil can speed the growth of bacteria that decompose, or biodegrade, oil. But it has been uncertain whether oil that has lingered in the environment for almost 20 years still is biodegradable, leaving questions on whether further clean-up efforts might be worthwhile.
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