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Historical Concentrations of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons and Persistent Organic Pollutants in Superior, Wisconsin

Karsyn Doughty and Dr. Lorena Rios Mendoza, Department of Natural Sciences, University of Wisconsin Superior, Belknap St. and Catlin Ave., Superior, WI 54880

In April of 2018, a failed slide valve at the Husky Oil Refinery caused an explosion of the Fluid Catalytic Cracking (FCC) unit and introduced over 15,000 barrels of hot asphalt and toxins into the environment. Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) is one of these toxins. 

Polycyclic Aromatic compounds are a very important class of organic, aromatic toxins that are composed of two or more benzene rings. PAHs are semipersistent toxic compounds because they are not easily broken down in the environment. The more highly concentrated PAHs surround highly urbanized/industrialized areas. Incidents like the Husky Oil Refinery explosion introduce fossil fuels and other oil products into the environment and cause PAH concentrations increase rapidly. After the explosion, many PAHs were introduced into the air, water, and sediments and we established a hypothesis that water, sediments, and debris were concentrating these PAHs after the explosion.

Data has been being collected over the summer of 2020 to look at the historical concentrations in the Superior area. The search started out broad, looking at Lake Superior. Sites were collected throughout the shoreline and in Duluth, Minnesota. Databases such as the American Chemical Society, Science Direct, EcoTox (an Environmental Protection Agency database), International Association for Great Lakes Research (IAGLR), Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and other sources were used to collect data. 

This research is meant to build strong background on the previous concentrations of PAHs in local water areas such as St Louis River Estuary, Newton Creek and Lake Superior. Our main objective is to create a strong background of the PAHs studies from before the accident at the Husky. Having a background of identification and concentrations of PAHs, we can later analyze our samples and be able to compare and understand the real impact this explosion will have on our community.




Additional Abstract Information

Presenter: Karsyn Doughty

Institution: University of Wisconsin - Superior

Type: Poster

Subject: Chemistry

Status: Approved


Time and Location

Session: Poster 4
Date/Time: Tue 11:00am-12:00pm
Session Number: 3625