On 1 March 1984, a spill of diesel fuel and gasoline on the east coast of the Queen Charlotte Islands, Canada, resulted in significant contamination of the beach. Sediment and water samples analysed for oil concentration indicated that oil moved through the beach sediments in response to the tidal cycle and the subsequent changing water table levels. Concentrations tended to be low and variable in samples collected during a flood tide as the oil was driven through the sediments to the upper beach face. On the ebb, however, concentrations increased nearly five times as oil was released from the lowering water table onto the surface of the beach face. At low tide some residual oil remained trapped in the sediments, the amount correlating with the degree of sediment sorting (i.e. sediment porosity). In spite of high wave exposure, traces of fuel remained within 300 m of the spill site after 60 days. This suggests that light, unweathered oil is not mechanically abraded and dispersed in the same manner as more weathered oil; rather the light oil is released from the beach sediments principally during an ebbing tide, and wave action probably affects the cleaning of the beach in a minor capacity. © 1985.
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