Bioremediation of the Exxon Valdez oil in Prince William Sound beaches

Mar Pollut Bull. 2016 Dec 15;113(1-2):156-164. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2016.08.086. Epub 2016 Sep 9.


Oil from the Exxon Valdez laden with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) has persisted on some beaches in Prince William Sound, Alaska, >20years after these beaches became contaminated. The degradation rate of the total PAH (TPAH) is estimated at 1% per year. Low oxygen concentrations were found to be the major factor causing oil persistence, and bioremediation through the injection of hydrogen peroxide and nutrients deep into four beaches in PWS were conducted in the summers of 2011 and 2012. It was found that due to the treatment, the TPAH biodegradation rate was between 13% and 70% during summer 2011 and summer 2012. The results also showed high efficiency in the delivery of oxygen and nutrient to the contaminated areas of the beach. However, the approach has an environmental cost associated with it, and stakeholders would need to conduct a rigorous net environmental benefit analysis (NEBA) for pursuing the bioremediation of submerged contaminated sediments, especially in higher latitudes.

Keywords: Beach bioremediation; Exxon Valdez oil spill; Oil persistence; Pore water data; Prince William Sound; Subsurface.

MeSH terms

  • Alaska
  • Animals
  • Bathing Beaches / standards
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Geologic Sediments / analysis
  • Geologic Sediments / chemistry*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Petroleum Pollution / analysis*
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / analysis*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*


  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical