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A materials balance analysis : petroleum products in greater Vancouver Dreher, Wilfried Hans

Abstract

Identifying sources and pathways of pollutants is one of the most difficult problems to solve in the area of water quality management. The following three objectives focus on this problem in (1) developing the concept of the materials balance for identifying sources, pathways and sinks of petroleum products in an urban environment, (2) investigating the effects of pollution due to petroleum hydrocarbons in an urban area and (3) applying the planning technique of the materials balance in a case study of the Greater Vancouver Regional District. The state of the present understanding of the behaviour of oil in water, its toxicity to aquatic organisms and effects on the beneficial uses of water is reviewed and the essential literature on this subject is summarized. The materials balance technique, which is a complete accounting of all oil products entering into, flowing through and leaving an area, has been developed because it is recognized that present methods for identifying sources and pathways of pollution are unsystematic and therefore do not fully reveal the opportunities for controlling discharges of oily wastes. The principal conclusions of the study are the following: (1) Considerable uncertainty prevails in interpreting physiological and biological aspects of oil pollution. Available evidence indicates that the greatest hazards result from large spills and toxic substances contained in waste oils, predominantly heavy metals. (2) The materials balance has proven to be a useful planning technique for residuals management studies, in that it provides: a) a tool to identify size and sources of flows, thus identifying the critical waste streams; b) a framework for making "guesstimates", which are often unavoidable due to a lack of data and for testing the sensitivity of alternative assumptions; and c) a powerful model for analysing alternative policy mechanisms for pollution abatement and resource conservation. (3) Applying the materials balance to the Greater Vancouver Regional District, the following conclusions can be drawn: at present, oil pollution within the Greater Vancouver Regional District is not serious, however, there are problems that require further research such as the long term effects of oil pollution on the marine and estuarine environment and effects of pollution due to contaminated waste oils. It would seem preferable to understand and control the problem before oil pollution reaches serious levels due to future growth and industrialization.

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