Winner 2014

FAMERR, 2014 R&D Award Winner

Determination of realistic spill profiles for chemicals to improve decision-making for spills in different geographic areas and seasons.

The winner of the 3rd ITOPF R&D Award is FAMERR (Factors Affecting Marine Emergency and Response Research) led by Cefas in the UK. The Award is being used to fund this 18 month project which commenced in June 2014.

Project Aims

The aim of the project is to determine the influence of temperature and salinity on the fate and behaviour of chemicals spilled in marine environment.

Why ITOPF funded the project

Due to the huge variety of Hazardous Noxious Substances (HNS) transported by sea, there is a broad range of marine spill scenarios for HNS. The fate, behaviour and the impacts to marine organisms of spilled chemicals are dependent on the local marine conditions. While great efforts have been made to study the hydrological influences on the dispersion and movement of spilled HNS, little is known on the influences from other key marine features, e.g. water temperature, salinity. These influences on the fate & behaviour and ecotoxicity of the HNS may change the hazard and risk profile, and consequently have an influence on the decision-making on the response options.

CEFAS is leading the FAMERR project

Who is the lead organisation?

Cefas, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, is one of the leading centres in applied marine science in the UK. With their internationally renowned science, Cefas has collaborative relationships span the EU and UK government, non-governmental organisations, research centres and industry. The work of Cefas covers a wide spectrum within marine environment, biodiversity and fisheries. Cefas provides UK Government with emergency response advice through its team of modellers, chemist, ecotoxicologists and oceanographers. In addition to their expertise, Cefas has excellent laboratories with freshwater, brackish and marine facilities for experiments on fish and invertebrates. Therefore, it is considered Cefas is well positioned for a project of this nature.

What are the background and the objectives of this project?

Over the last two years, Cefas has been working closely with its European partners on an ARCOPplus project that aims to improve the regional preparedness and response to oil and HNS incidents. Work carried out under this programme has assessed the toxicological risks of HNS using selected seaweed species, tube worms, crustacean, larvae of sea urchin and juvenile fish. Based on the results from this work, a few chemicals are selected for FAMERR, including aniline (floater/dissolver) and butyl acrylate (floater/evaporator/dissolver). Zinc sulphate is also used as a reference chemical in this project, due to the widely published toxicity studies of this substance.

Project outline

The project looked at the impacts of temperature and salinity on the fate and behaviour of eight chemicals representing different groups (i.e. floater/dissolver, sinker/dissolver, evaporator/dissolver, dissolver, evaporator).

A temperature range between 10 - 30°C and a salinity range of 32 - 40 ppt, both typical of surface seawater variation, were explored.

CHEMMAP (Chemical Discharge Model System) was used to simulate near shore spills with limited depth and moderate tidal currents. The fate and behaviour of the chemicals for up to four days after the release were investigated.

Four marine species were selected for the subsequent toxicity tests. Three types of toxicity tests, i.e. standard exposure tests, time-based studies, and brief exposure studies, were carried out in this project.

Key findings

Higher temperature is likely to lead to enhanced evaporation and degradation, and essentially reduce the amount of chemicals in the water column.

This effect would be more noticeable for chemicals that remain in the surface layer of the water column (Floaters and Evaporators).

For chemicals with higher density (Sinkers), higher temperature may lead to enhanced solubility and improved mixing, which means the chemicals may affect pelagic species as well as benthic species.

Higher temperature is likely to increase the metabolism and uptake rate of the organisms, which may lead to more noticeable toxicity effects.

Higher salinity is likely to reduce the solubility of chemicals.

Therefore, the overall toxicity may be lower when the salinity is in the range of 35-40 ppt, as compared with brackish water.

A report reviewing top 100 HNS handled in EU ports* suggests that about 50% of the HNS transported in the EU would evaporate or float upon release. The concentration of these chemicals in the water column is likely to reduce more rapidly at higher water / air temperatures.

About 25% of the chemicals would dissolve or sink upon release. These chemicals may persist longer in the marine environment, and potentially cause greater concerns. However, the actual impact of each chemical should be assessed individually according to their intrinsic physiochemical properties.

Due to the tidal influence, local sessile organisms and relatively immobile benthic species may experience a series of concentration peaks and troughs after a nearshore spill. Therefore, the overall toxic effects of a chemical on the species is determined by two factors: how long the chemical remains in local waters and at what concentration; and whether the organism can metabolise and depurate the chemical in between two peak concentrations.

Depending on the physiochemical properties of the chemical and the mechanism it affects in an organism, a brief exposure may not cause long term impacts. However, this is highly chemical and species specific and should not be generalised.

* HASREP, 2005. Response to harmful Substances spilt at sea. Project co funded by the European commission under the community framework for co-operation in the field of accidental or deliberate marine pollution.

Further information

Key findings from FAMERR (April 2016)