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Keywords:

  • polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons;
  • oil spill;
  • Deepwater Horizon;
  • CDOM fluorescence;
  • beam attenuation

[1] Here, we report the initial observations of distributions of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) in subsurface waters near the Deepwater Horizon oil well site (also referred to as the Macondo, Mississippi Canyon Block 252 or MC252 well). Profiles of in situ fluorescence and beam attenuation conducted during 9-16 May 2010 were characterized by distinct peaks at depths greater than 1000 m, with highest intensities close to the wellhead and decreasing intensities with increasing distance from the wellhead. Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) analyses of water samples coinciding with the deep fluorescence and beam attenuation anomalies confirmed the presence of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) at concentrations reaching 189 μg L−1 (ppb). Subsurface exposure to PAH at levels considered to be toxic to marine organisms would have occurred in discrete depth layers between 1000 and 1400 m in the region southwest of the wellhead site and extending at least as far as 13 km.