Blue Water Task Force, Water Quality, Oil Spill
February 22 2011

Monitoring Gulf Beaches for Oil and Dispersants

by Mara Dias



The Emerald Coast Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation has been monitoring beach water along the panhandle of Florida since last summer. See their water testing info center for more information.

They have just started on a new venture with a researcher from the University of South Florida to start monitoring the beaches for evidence of oil contamination in the sand. Read more below.

Surfriders team up with researchers as DEP resumes testing for oil, dispersants

The Walton Sun

Emerald Coast Surfrider Foundation has joined with University of South Florida researcher Rip Kirby in its quest for answers on the conditions of area beaches.

“Surfrider will be joining his team and assisting with his sampling effort,” chairman Michael Sturdivant said at the organization’s February chapter meeting, where he introduced the coastal geologist.

The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to the protection and enhancement of the world's waves and beaches.

Following an announcement from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in regards to its stepping up its water testing, the foundation plans to switch much of its testing energies to soil sampling.

“Hopefully we will show the beaches are clean,” Sturdivant said.

The testing is important for the protection of community health and trust, Sturdivant said.

At the meeting, Kirby brought in the “latest and greatest” in fluorescent light technology to show how crude oil that has come into contact with dispersants will glow bright orange when illuminated.

“If the isotopic signature fluoresces in orange and gold, it has Corexit,” Kirby said.

Kirby predicts oil will be impacting the beaches in some form for the next three to five years.

“With our warmer temperatures, we are hoping the bugs will break it down faster,” Kirby said. But his fear is “oil coming onto our beaches by an offshore wave event.”

related article.....
As tourism season approaches, DEP restarts testing:

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is once again testing Panhandle beaches.

The last time FDEP conducted tests were Aug. 16.

FDEP “is initiating weekly beach monitoring for polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and DOSS (an ingredient in the dispersant corexit) in water samples in preparation for this year’s swim season," according to an e-mail from the DEP’s Dave Whiting, biology program administrator.

The e-mail, which was provided to The Sun by the local Surfrider Foundation, said “our sampling is being used to help the Department of Health craft protective public health messages or notices.”

It went on to say, “We will be collecting tarballs and sand (from both visibly clean and visibly stained) portions of beaches to determine how the weathering of the oil may have affected its composition, people’s ability to detect it on the beach and their potential for unacceptable exposure.”

The department will also be performing targeted beach sand sampling in "areas of special concern."

The DOH will be in charge of issuing any public health messages in relation to the testing.

“We are hopeful that the public health message will remain the same,” Whiting continued. “Beachgoers should not recreate in areas with oil product too numerous to avoid. By avoiding visible oil, it is unlikely that you will be exposed to unsafe levels of petroleum."