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Any decision to treat or not to treat an oil spill with dispersants involves a multiplicity of biological, chemical, physical, and meteorological inputs. Knowledge concerning the fate of treated and untreated spills is a prerequisite for estimating environmental impacts. Biological data concerning acute toxicity levels and the inter-relationship of the affected marine biota must be understood and quantified, as well as the weathering of the oil, the modification of it by microorganisms, and the change in the chemical and physical nature of the oil spill by various types of dispersants.
Most of the information required to conduct such an assessment is not presently available and must be obtained from a series of laboratory, meso-scale, and in situ types of experiments. The type of information obtainable from each type of experiment is discussed and the role it plays in the assessment process is presented.
dispersants, environment, oils, assessment
Professor, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, R.I.