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Weekly News: December 2003

December 5, 2003

December 5, 2003


Oil Spill Damages Claim Awarded

NOAA and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) were awarded their claim for $2.2 million from the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (Fund) to restore beaches and marine habitat damaged by a mysterious oil spill near Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in August 2000. Without knowing the responsible party, NOAA and DEP submitted a natural resource damages claim for payment from the Fund in January 2003. This is the first time NOAA has been awarded a damages claim from the Fund. For more information contact Tony Penn.


Sanctuaries Rally Volunteers in Seabird Die-off

Volunteers from the Gulf of the Farallones and Monterey Bay national marine sanctuaries are helping to identify the source of a recent, large die-off of northern fulmars, a species of seabird. The volunteers are collecting the dead birds and assisting in necropsies. Numerous pieces of plastic were found in the birds’ gizzards. Fulmars are surface-feeders, and can mistake buoyant bits of plastic for food. Many of the fulmars were young and starving. The die-off extended as far north as Washington and as far south as the U.S./ Mexico border. For more information, contact Michael Murphy.


Contaminants Studied at WTC Site

Recent results from an analysis of blue mussel (Mytilus edulis) tissue in waters near the World Trade Center (WTC) site in New York City indicate that most contaminants are generally at or below previously reported concentrations. The Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the WTC resulted in a massive plume of dust and smoke that blanketed lower Manhattan and parts of the Hudson-Raritan Estuary. Since then, scientists have been conducting tests to determine if, and how, the plume may have affected the area. Although the levels of certain contaminants appear to be about the same or slightly lower, the levels of dioxins and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in some areas appear to be slightly elevated. Dioxins are generated from activities like municipal incineration and some industrial processes. PBDEs are used as fire retardants in furniture and in building materials. Some of the recently established WTC sampling sites showed relatively high concentrations of these compounds in mussel tissue. However, scientists will need additional data before a connection can be made between these contaminants and the WTC plume. For more information, contact Gunnar Lauenstein.


Coliform Bacteria Resist Antibiotics

The results of recent research involving antibiotic resistance assays show that resistant Escherichia coli, commonly known as E. coli, may persist in South Carolina wastewater and surface waters. This raises the question of whether bacteria can acquire and lose resistance to antibiotics after being discharged into these waters. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria were detected in 39 percent of 192 tested surface water samples and among eight percent of 1,838 tested bacterial strains. The extent of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains ranged from three percent in less developed watersheds, to 15 percent in more developed watersheds. For more information, contact Jill Stewart or Jan Gooch.


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