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As the transport of hazardous substances by water increases, the probability of accidental spills into the marine environment will grow accordingly. The problems associated with spills of hazardous substances are far more serious than oil spills both in terms of human health hazards and potential environmental damage. Tracking the spread of an often invisible but possibly dangerous contaminant throughout the physical and biological phases of the marine ecosystem is only one of the major difficulties encountered in this type of spill. During a recent spill of pentachlorophenol (PCP) into a ship channel in New Orleans, Louisiana, many of the problems unique to hazardous materials were encountered and had to be addressed within strict time constraints. This paper lists the most common problems encountered at hazardous materials spills, briefly describes the PCP incident, and discusses implications of the growing marine transport of hazardous chemicals to humans and their environment.