Oil Pollution and its Environmental Impact in the Arabian Gulf Region

Oil Pollution and its Environmental Impact on the Arabian Gulf Region, Volume 3
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CNN -- As oil continues to pour into the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion, comfort may come from an unusual direction: the largest oil spill in history. These regions are most productive because the shallow seabed lies within the photic region Sheppard, Situated within the richest oil area in the world, the Arabian Gulf represents a stressed ecosystem with scarce published data and environmental studies. All Rights Reserved. Thus, all samples can be taken into account in the analysis. Massoud , F. Map showing the location of the sampling stations.

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Log In Sign Up. Overview of marine pollution in the Arabian Gulf with emphasis on pollutant transport modeling Walid Elshorbagy.

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Overview of marine pollution in the Arabian Gulf with emphasis on pollutant transport modeling. Oil-related activities that range from exploration to exportation result in a wide range of adverse effects that cause significant damages to the components of the ecosystem such as coral reefs, algal mats, mangrove and other habitats.

Many other anthropogenic coastal and offshore activities pose major contamination and marine pollution in the Gulf that need critical investigation and assessment. This paper discusses the types of marine pollution in association with the nature of the originating sources besides their expected impacts upon the ecosystem. Conditions of each type of marine pollution prevailing in the Arabian Gulf are addressed based on various available monitoring studies.

Physical, chemical, and biological marine pollution are identified and evaluated. As a part of pollution assessment task, the fate transport modeling of various types of pollutants in marine water is also discussed. This includes thermal, ecological, and chemical pollution. A recent case study that modeled the fate transport of three organic pollutants in the Arabian Gulf is presented. The study was conducted in the coastal industrial complex of Ruwais, a city located at about km west of Abu Dhabi, the Capital City of United Arab Emirates.

Keywords: Arabian Gulf, marine pollution, fate transport, modeling, Ruwais. ArabianCoast Keynote Address, Prof.

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Shallow estuarine and coastal marine ecosystems are gradually subjected to significant impact, not only in sensitive habitat areas, but also in aquatic communities inhabiting them. Since the early sixties, the growing public awareness of pollution effects on the aquatic environment has led to major increase in the assessment of marine regions. It has a surface of 2.

The oil-related activities besides other development and anthropogenic activities result in a number of marine pollution problems. Such pollution has been posing a wide range of adverse effects that cause significant damages to the ecosystem components such as coral reefs, algal mats, mangrove and other habitats. Figure 1. Arabian Gulf with major feature sites shown in text, locations of oil spill accidents shown in black circles, and seven bathymetric provinces defined by Seibold and Vollbrect and Seibold et al.

Thermal, chemical, and biological pollution conditions prevailing in the 2 ArabianCoast Keynote Address, Prof. Such classification is based on the nature of pollution source generated from human or anthropogenic activities and represent stress on the marine environment. However, it is worth noting that each class of pollution may pose impacts on different forms of marine environment and not necessarily on conditions of the same nature of pollution source only. For example, physical pollution usually poses adverse impacts on the chemical and ecological conditions of the marine environment while chemical pollution does badly affect the biological and ecological conditions.

The following presentation introduces first each category in terms of its sources and impacts then brief coverage of major selected conditions prevailing in the Arabian Gulf is then presented. Arid areas like the Arabian Gulf experience high temperatures and solar radiation responsible for elevating the water temperature. The high evaporation rates associated with such conditions bring about loss of fresh water through the water surface causing increased salinity that further increases with limited fresh water inflows. The evaporation is known to intensify with winds and shallowness of the water body resulting in further increased salinity.

Temperature and salinity can be also affected increased by effluents of high temperature and salinity generated from coastal power and desalination plants. Elevated temperatures affect the water density, viscosity, and solubility of gases, and in particular the dissolved oxygen. Such effects cause thermal stress that might result in ecotoxicological and respiration effects on some marine organisms Tait In open and well mixed sea, the effects will be limited within meters only from the discharge point.

The impacts of increased salinity associated with brine discharges are also limited to enclosed, shallow, and relatively stagnant water. Fosket revealed that larval mortality, slow development rate, failure of osmoregulatory mechanism, shrinkage of body cells, malfunction of the endocrine system, etc. Elevated suspended matters in the water column represent another form of physical pollution in marine environment. Such matters control the transparency conditions required for light penetration and photosynthesis of the aquatic organisms.

The natural levels of suspended matters are generally affected by the type of bed sediments and the prevailing energy and turbulence associated with the water dynamics. Suspension conditions can be greatly altered during dredging, coastal reclamation, and infilling activities. Besides the increased turbidity and the associated drop of 3 ArabianCoast Keynote Address, Prof. The following section discusses the Gulf thermal pollution only as one form of physical pollution. For increased suspension pollution, the reader may consult other references Al-Ghadban Air temperatures can reach as high as 50oC at high summer in some parts while surface water temperatures do exceed 30oC in the southern shelf.

As the reported salinity-temperature data did not cover the shallow shelf of the southern Gulf, a recent field survey Elshorbagy et al. The temperature map shows maximum records of 32oC in the summer close to UAE coast while the salinity is as high as 45 ppt in the winter; that is ppt higher than the summer due to the higher winter evaporation induced by the strong north-westerly Shamal wind. Figure 2 shows the maximum records of temperature in summer and maximum records of salinity in winter.

The steep gradients of temperature and salinity observed in the shallower southern shelf suggest that coastal effluents of high temperature and salinity generated by power and desalination plants may be responsible or contributing to the elevated levels in these regions. This is yet to be examined by conducting long-term simulations of the heat transfer processes on the presence of coastal effluents. Table 1 lists the production capacities of major coastal desalination plants in the Gulf countries.

The listed capacities can be related to the amount of salty water provided to the desalination plants as well as the brine blow-down rejected into the marine environment utilizing reasonable ratios between the salty feed water and the production amount. Note that most of such effluents are generated along the southern coastline.

Al-Tayaran and Madany have reported peak local temperatures of oC above the naturally occurring temperature in Bahrain. Distribution of peak surface temperature in summer and peak surface salinity in winter After Azam et al. Coastal desalination production in the Arabian Gulf S. A Kuwait U. Qatar Bahrain Oman Total No. Oil spill accidents represent the most common as well as hazardous source of such pollution in oil-reach marine environments like the Arabian Gulf.

Such pollution produces thick slicks of oil that can bring about complete closure of coastal facilities like desalination plants, halt coastal recreation and tourism activities, and entirely eradicate aquatic communities. Petroleum hydrocarbons associated with oil spills, as well as oil dispersant materials applied during clean-up operations, are toxic to a wide spectrum of marine organisms. Intertidal and subtidal biotopes usually incur much of the damage in case the spilled oil is washed ashore. Concentrations measured in bivalves provide a more accurate reflection of corresponding contamination in their ambient environment.

Some aromatic compounds, in particular high molecular weight polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons PAHs , constitute potent mutagens and carcinogens and cause different effects on floral and faunal populations depending on a host of factors e. Agrochemicals introduced in a marine environment can result in local contamination problems with sometimes major biological and ecological impacts.

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The most critical agrochemicals to the marine environment are pesticides or other persistent organic pollutants POPs. The contamination of marine environment by trace metals is another and rather critical form of pollution and usually associated with industrial point or multipoint industrial effluents. The hazard associated with such contamination is imminent due to the persistence of metals in the environment as well as their bioaccumulation in biota, much of which is consumed by man.

Due to the ultimate sink of those conservative pollutants to the marine sediment, their levels in sediment can usually reflect the general status of the environment. Yet, this does not necessarily reflect the biological availability of these metals.

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Chemical Pollution in the Arabian Gulf Detailed description and reporting of chemical pollution in the Arabian Gulf is somewhat deficient due to scarcity of studies conducted in the Gulf countries in addition to the difficulty and high costs associated with the needed chemical analyses. A brief coverage of various forms of chemical contamination is introduced below. Several reasons do contribute to such accidents, the most common of which is the military actions associated with regional wars Table 2. Major accidents started as early as with the eruption of the Gulf war and reached its peak in during the Kuwait invasion where 22 events were reported totaling an amount of Million US Gallons SOMER The locations of the reported events since are shown in Figure 1 as black circles.

Table 2. Amounts Mill. Reported Human Error Unspecified Millit. Actn Grounding Int. In sediments, nearshore areas usually show higher TPH contamination than the offshore deep water. TPH spatial distribution in the Gulf for 15cm sediment core samples was developed based on the Mt. Mitchell and the Massoud et al. Such distribution expresses the chronic 60 years sediment contamination based on overall sedimentation rate of 2. For biota contamination, tangible levels of PHs are usually reported in bivalves following oil spill accidents then found to decrease with a slow rate later as noted in rock oysters in UAE, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia.

Bivalves from other areas displayed relatively lower concentrations than those reported in earlier surveys. Residue of petroleum hydrocarbons PH in fish are rarely reported from the Gulf Literathy et al. The majority of agrochemicals originate from the limited arable lands located along the Iranian coastline with the Shatt- Al-Arab being the largest potential source in the region. Other local points are scattered in non-uniform way as potential sources of pesticides and insecticides. Due to the high cost and difficulty associated with sampling and analysis, no intact data is available for the seawater.

Most measurements are done for sediments and biota, in particular the bivalves that usually serve as bioindicator organisms for trace metals. Most results show DDT residues in bivalves as the highest concentrations of all agrochemical compounds reported with most levels at or below 1 ng g-1 dry weight. More details can be found in Burns et al. In general, pesticides levels are found higher in the northern sector of the Gulf compared to the southern region. This is supported by observing the individual DDT residues in sediments measured in at four locations in Iran spanning the entire length of the Gulf from Abadan in the north to Hormuz in the South.

Finally, agrochemical contaminations in fish and shrimp are also monitored in few studies to assess the seafood contamination where the overall results show low levels compared to those found in other marine environments. Trace Metals TM TM originates in the Arabian Gulf from non-oil industries including desalination plants, oil refineries, petrochemical plants, and other activities.

Other industries not located directly on the coast may be discharging its wastes in sewer lines and eventually leads secondary inputs of trace metals into the Gulf. Fowler et al. Similar to seawater, TM concentrations in most of the Gulf sediments were close to their background levels indicating no anthropogenic contamination. The upper limits of the background levels were roughly estimated by Al-Abadi et al. A general trend of high background levels in the north and low ones in the south is observed by Al-Abadi et al.

Available monitoring studies showed some anthropogenic contaminations exist with some metals Table 4. Most of these enhanced metals were measured in locations under the effect of land-based inputs like harbours and ports. Table 4. Note that a background level for Cr has not yet been estimated. The high concentrations of Cr and Ni were attributed to the natural mineralization of ophiolite rocks abundant in the neighborhood of Omani Coast. Data of TMs in biota, in particular bivalves, are extremely lacking in the Arabian Gulf especially the Iranian Coast even though bivalves are known to be the best organisms to consider as bio-indicators of industrial pollution.

Variation in species' bioaccumulation capacity for various metals makes it hard to define a common indicator for the entire Gulf. Eventually, the base line for certain metals in certain species of bivalves will be high so that only major levels of contamination would be required when using these bivalves as bio-indicators for pollution identification.

Available studies report some enhanced levels of few TMs in a number of bivalves. Clam was found to have high levels of Pb in Kuwait 3. It is worthy to mention that recent reported concentrations of trace metals in 8 ArabianCoast Keynote Address, Prof. For trace metals in fishes, high levels of Cd were reported in the livers of spangled emperor from southern Oman Other than anthropogenic contamination, such levels may be related to transfer within the food chain of high rich- nutrient waters occurring during the sampling period, similar to the high bioaccumulation phenomena of mercury.

Use of fish as bio-indicators is less effective because they are not sessile besides they have greatly different physiologies and feeding strategies. Biological Pollution Biological pollution in marine environment refers to pollution generated from biological loads introduced to the marine water from coastal effluents or from navigating ships offshore. The biological load includes organic loads that can be partially found in living organisms or nutrients that enhance the growth and abundance of existing organisms. Common sources of such loads include domestic-industrial sewage discharged from coastal effluents or river inflows, inland solid wastes dumped into the sea, polluted water discharged from the navigating ships and referred to as ballast water.

Ballast water is absolutely essential to the safe and efficient operation of modern shipping, providing balance and stability to un-laden ships. However, it may pose serious ecological, economic and health threats. A similar volume may also be transferred domestically within countries and regions each year. Adverse impacts of the biological loads introduced to the marine environment manifest in disturbing the food productivity and eventually the types and distribution of various marine species. Reduced primary productivity can affect the secondary productivity and ultimately the higher trophic levels or seafood.

Excessive amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus can alter the species composition, diversity, and dynamics of the biotic communities. Extended alteration reflects in Eutrophication, a phenomenon intensified in warm environments and stratified waters and severely deteriorates the water quality and renders it unhealthy for eco-living. Extreme abundance of specific algal species in the surface water, some of which may be toxic, turn the water color into red, a phenomenon known as red tide.

The number of algal species in clear red tide episodes may exceed one million cell per one square meters and can cause death of fishes. Each ecosystem has a carrying capacity of any biological load within which the pollution adverse impacts are not largely reported. Carrying capacity is associated with two aspects; the first is the ecosystem persistence to withstand changes following some biological perturbation, and the second is the resilience, or system ability to recover and spring back to its original conditions following the biological perturbation.

The following section discusses the main sources of biological loadings in the Arabian Gulf along with major reported ecological impacts.

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Due to the scarcity of water resources in the region, most Gulf countries pay a lot of efforts to treat most of its collected sewage to use in landscaping and irrigation indicating drops in the untreated sewage discharged to the sea. Data about such discharges are extremely lacking and almost not available. Similar situation exists with the solid wastes where most countries dispose their land-based generated solid wastes in landfills.

The leachates generated from those landfills are usually allowed to dissipate into subsoil and subsoil water. Seepage of this contaminated subsoil water into the sea may exist at some locations with no records available so far. The solid wastes generated on ships are mostly disposed in seawater and again no data is available. In terms of ballast water discharged into the Arabian Gulf, an estimate is done based on the average number of navigating ships in the Gulf.

Roughly 2 million barrels of oil are spilled into the region every year from the routine discharge of dirty ballast waters and from the or so offshore oil and gas platforms. The illegal discharge of crude and fuel oil by tankers has also been a major source of pollution UNEP, In terms of impacts of biological loadings, eutrophication events have been reported in Kuwait, Oman, and Dubai-UAE but with little investigation and documentation.

The shallow well mixed, and illuminated but eutrophicated Kuwait Bay waters constitute a highly stressed ecosystem in the Gulf. These waters contain about 15 potentially harmful phytoplankton taxa some of which attain red tide proportions. During the year , two red-water episodes occurred which were ephemeral and the dominant species differed each time e. Prorocentrum spp. Pseudo-nitzschia seriata, N. The blooms were orange greenish-brown and appeared as thick foamy rafts, meshes and strands entraining gas bubbles.

Another red tide event was also reported AlShweekh-Kuwait on October The affected area spanned over a length of one kilometer and width of half kilometer with Dunaliella Salina as the dominant species ROPME This is usually done via sophisticated numerical modeling for the various types of pollution addressed earlier. To explain; the temperature-salinity levels are simulated under varying conditions of thermal pollution using heat-transfer models.

Suspended matter in seawater is simulated under various dredging and infilling activities using sediment transport models. Ecological conditions and nutrient dynamics are also modeled given the prevailing physical and hydrodynamic backgrounds. The migration of chemicals on marine water is modeled using fate transport models that usually consider a number of weathering and environmental processes.

Such modeling is employed to simulate the migration of oil slicks generated from major oil spill accidents or to predict the fate of trace chemicals generated at either onshore or offshore points. Also, since large amounts of data of different types are needed for any model initial and boundary conditions, several modeling efforts fail due to the scarcity of different forms of marine and environmental data as has been discussed earlier. Yet, a reasonable number of oil spill modeling studies have been conducted in the past.

This can be attributed to the major impacts caused by the oil spill events and also to the relatively simple approaches employed in many of the conducted studies. This component discusses briefly the main processes involved in simulating the two types of chemicals; oil slicks and trace chemicals. A case study is then presented in which the three types of transport modeling; physical, ecological, and chemical, were conducted.

Transport Modeling of Oil Slicks Oil spill models consist of a series of algorithms representing the processes describing the transport and fate of oil released into the environment. Figure 3. Main weathering processes considered in oil slick modeling Advection is described by the slick horizontal movement under forcing from wind, waves, and currents.

Being itself a fluid with a density only slightly less than that of water, oil is also transported vertically in the water column in the form of droplets of various sizes. Current fields are generally considered to be the vectoral sum of wind, tidal, density, and pressure gradient induced currents.

Of these various components, the wind-induced drift is often the most important factor determining surface oil slick trajectories over time scale greater than one day. Spreading determines the areal extent of spilled oil and effects the various weathering processes influenced by the surface area, 11 ArabianCoast Keynote Address, Prof. Spreading is normally considered to be controlled by the driving forces of gravity and surface tension and the retarding forces of inertia and viscosity.

Estimates of evaporation losses are required in order to assess the lifetime of the spill. Dissolution is most active shortly after a spill and affects some of the same hydrocarbon fractions as evaporation. However dissolution accounts for much less oil loss than evaporation and is generally two or more orders of magnitude smaller. Natural dispersion computation is required for the assessment of the life time of an oil spill. The rate of natural dispersion of oil droplets in the water column depends on the sea state, but is also influenced by the oil related parameters, such as oil film thickness and oil properties density, surface tension and viscosity.

Prediction of emulsification and the associated viscosity changes relies on several coefficients associated with empirical observations.

Biodegradation is a long term process that continues for years after the spill occurs, and is affected by a variety of organisms. Photo-oxidation is the process by which oil, with energy from sunlight, undergoes oxidation, and polar, water soluble, oxygenated products are generated.

This process is unimportant in the first few days of the spill but may be noticeable after a weak or more. Oil spill modeling efforts can be divided into tidal models and estuarine circulation models.

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Most of the early studies conducted on the physical processes of the Arabian Gulf Al-Rabeh et al. Such studies provide valuable information in the context of long-term understanding and implementation of environmental management issues. However in the cases of sudden environmental disasters like accidental oil spillage, tidal flow dynamics are crucially important. Real- time models are needed to forecast and report the pollutant movement in order to direct the mitigation efforts. Reynolds listed three comprehensive mathematical models that were available during the Mt Mitchell expedition and used for estuarine circulation modeling.