Public Lab Research note

North Brooklyn Boat Club reporting increased oil sightings

by liz | September 05, 2014 15:32 05 Sep 15:32 | #11106 | #11106

What I want to do

Develop a sampling procedure for oil sheen on water to support groups such the North Brooklyn Boat Club who do environmental advocacy on Newtown Creek. Increasingly frequent incidents of "unknown petroleum" are being reported, read the article here:

My attempt and results

Matt Pendergraft suggested to collect samples of sheen by placing an absorbent material on the surface of the sheen. The pad can be 'wrung out" to reduce the amount of liquid being carried around (b/c any liquid sample would be mostly water). Once collected, fold the pad for transit in aluminum foil, then put in ziploc bag.

To process it, extract the oil with another hydrocarbon, then siphon off the oil which presumably has risen to the top of the water.

In terms of what actual material to use, try using the absorbent pads used for gas spills in the bottom of boat because they don't soak up water--they soak up gas/oil. These are sold in home depot, auto supply stores, boat stores.

Questions and next steps

I am planning to purchase a variety of motor oils and gasolines to test sample preparation and analysis with.

  • will gasoline sheen evaporate away because it’s so volatile?

Why I'm interested

Oil and gas sheen on water is the most common question i get in the New York / New Jersey area (with particulate air pollution a close second). So far, we've developed a clear sampling procedure for sampling a solid Gulf-style tar ball, which fortunately are rarely seen in this region at this time. I am hoping to advance our ability to work with more diffuse samples such as oil sheen on water that are common in this region.


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News from the North Brooklyn Boat Club:

Yesterday NYCDEP reported a break in the case. In their words:

"We received an anonymous spill report of dumping... we contacted the US Coast Guard. We also brought in more DEC Spills staff. Our BECI unit is preparing their case, and we will discuss this with Regional Legal Counsel as to how the case will proceed. This investigation took quite some time, but it paid off, and we have abated a chronic problem that some people dismissed as "just routine sheens on Newtown Creek". The public in the area has been actively involved in this matter, and credit should go in part to them."

Keep up the great work! See Oil on the Creek? Call 800-457-7362

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