This study evaluated pollution levels in water and sediments of Península de Paraguaná and related these levels with benthic macrofauna along a coastal area where the largest Venezuelan oil refineries have operated over the past 60 years. For this, the concentration of heavy metals, of hydrocarbon compounds and the community structure of the macrobenthos were examined at 20 sites distributed along 40 km of coastline for six consecutive years, which included windy and calm seasons. The spatial variability of organic and inorganic compounds showed considerably high coastal pollution along the study area, across both years and seasons. The southern sites, closest to the refineries, had consistently higher concentrations of heavy metals and organic compounds in water and sediments when compared to those in the north. The benthic community was dominated by polychaetes at all sites, seasons and years, and their abundance and distribution were significantly correlated with physical and chemical characteristics of the sediments. Sites close to the oil refineries were consistently dominated by families known to tolerate xenobiotics, such as Capitellidae and Spionidae. The results from this study highlight the importance of continuing long-term environmental monitoring programs to assess the impact of effluent discharge and spill events from the oil refineries that operate in the western coast of Paraguaná, Venezuela.
Cite this as
Croquer A, Bone D, Bastidas C, Ramos R, García E. (2016)Monitoring coastal pollution associated with the largest oil refinery complex of Venezuela. PeerJ4:e2171https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.2171