An operational problem involving the loading arms occurred at São Sebastião Oil Terminal of PETROBRAS, located in the Brazilian Southeastern coast, during the oil transference from the tanker to the Terminal, resulting in the spill of approximately 26.0 m3 of crude Marlin-33 oil on 3 June 2003. The spilled bulk oil was transported by wind-driven currents to the north of São Sebastião Channel where skimmer vessels and booms collected the product. In spite of all contingency actions, some of the oil reached a coastal lagoon.

The Environmental Monitoring Program, involving sampling a week and four months after the event, included chemical analysis for benzene, toluene, ethybenzene and xylenes (BTEX), petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH), aliphatic compounds (n-alkanes), polycyclic aromatic compounds (PAH), unresolved complex mixtures (UCM) and total organic carbon (TOC); toxicological tests for water using the Microtox system and Lytechinus variegatus embryo test, and for sediment using the Nitokra copepod test; and hydrocarbon detection in mussel tissue, related to local aquaculture.

The coastal water PAH concentrations after the spill ranged from 0.14 to 1.92 μg/L in chrysene equivalents. For the lagoon water analysis, the concentrations of PAHs ranged from 1.54 to 9.66 μg/L. The total PAH concentrations in lagoon sediment ranged from 5.6 to 359.2 ng/g with perilene prevalence. The total PAH concentrations in mussel tissue samples ranged below the detection limit to 110.0 ng/g; the aliphatic hydrocarbon concentrations varied between 11.02 to 21.36 μg/g and total n-alkanes between 4.80 to 6.21 μg/g, showing no influence of petroleum hydrocarbons. The toxicity results were not conclusive: by means of acute tests, no toxicity was observed in the lagoon water. However, the chronic tests indicated toxicity in some samples including in the controls located in non-affected places.

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