Following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Water & Air became part of a large team of scientists to assess the impacts of the oil on the health of the Gulf Coast marsh systems for the NOAA National Resource Damage Assessment. Water & Air received marsh samples from the sampling team following a rigorous chain of custody process. The Water & Air team then identified emergent, terrestrial, and submerged aquatic vegetation components in marsh samples from potentially affected regions of the southeastern US Gulf of Mexico coast. Above ground biomass samples were sorted to species by Water & Air botanists. Below ground biomass samples were separated from soils to estimate total below-ground plant biomass. Water & Air skills highlighted by this project include plant taxonomy expertise, database creation ability, exacting quality assurance measures, and ability to coordinate with other companies to meet holding times for large quantities of samples.
- Developed a custom web-based database that was used to create data sheets, track samples, track quality assurance measures, enter and maintain data generated, and to prepare data suitable for upload.
- Processed and analyzed over 3200 samples.
- Discovered consolidated petroleum tar balls in these samples early in the project.
While the data is still being collected and reviewed, this component of a larger project will help assess impacts to productive coastal marshes potentially affected by one of the worst environmental disasters in United States history. Recognizing an opportunity to provide value-added services for the client, petroleum tar ball were collected from the samples to provide further corroboration that the coastal wetlands were being impacted by Deepwater Horizon oil. Water & Air’s ability to mobilize quickly and efficiently to meet the client’s rigorous quality standards was essential to the successful execution of the project.