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In Gulf, EPA's Water Sampling Found Possible Risk to Aquatic Life

Earlier today, we noted that EPA air sampling along the Gulf coast has shown moderate pollution levels. That’s not all the EPA has found.

Water sampling has also turned up a concentration of nickel that exceeds "chronic water benchmarks," meaning there's “the possibility of harm or risk” to aquatic life. Nickel is a metal associated with the oil spill, according to the EPA website.

We found this information buried in a Deepwater Horizon news release, sent out Wednesday night:

Surface water samples collected on July 13-15 along the Gulf Coast found that nickel exceeded chronic water benchmarks in one sample. At this level, nickel may cause risk to aquatic life. For more information on EPA monitoring, click here.

When we checked the EPA website, however, the water sampling page didn’t seem to reflect this same finding. Instead, it read:

EPA surface water samples collected on July 13 along the Gulf Coast found no compounds exceeding chronic water benchmarks.

When I spoke with Brendan Gilfillan, an EPA spokesperson, he confirmed that one sample indeed had a concentration of nickel that exceeded EPA benchmarks, but that was from an earlier batch, and the website is updated to reflect the findings of the most recent batch [PDF]. (The nickel is highlighted yellow in the PDF.) 

“As soon as we got the batch back that had nickel in it, we put up a headline on the website that said we had found nickel,” Gilfillan explained. “As soon as we got another batch without the nickel, we put up a headline that said we didn’t find any, which I understand can be confusing.”

Because the EPA warns that “sampling locations are not necessarily representative of widespread coastal conditions,” I took the coordinate for the location where the water sample had been taken and plotted it—it’s just off the coast of Alabama, in case you’re wondering.

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