Apr 01 2012
Although it seems like it’s just sea water out there, we seldom forget about the black liquid that taints our deep blue. Oil is always finding its way into the ocean whether it’s through 1) natural seeps (47%), 2) consumption of petroleum/ run off (38%), 3) transportation of petroleum/leaks and oil spills (12%), or 4) extraction of petroleum (3%). However, a great amount of oil found its way into the ocean during the Exxon Valdez oil spill. A tanker that was destined for Long Beach, CA crashed into a reef in Prince William Sound and spilled 38,800 metric tons into the ocean. After this accident congress passed the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 which required double hulled tankers and a plan for clean up given that a spill occurred. This plan included a contingency fund, or a fund if an accident occurred. Good thing congress thought of that because in 2010
a well blew out and spilled 666,400 metric tons (a years worth of natural seeps) of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. This was known as the BP Deepwater Horizon spill. We jotted down some facts to compare the two in class, and came to the conclusion that the BP oil spill was worse in terms of amount of oil spilled. Despite this, both had major environmental impacts.
IMPACTS OF OIL SPILLS:
- Oil in the pelts of otters or feathers of birds doesn’t let the animals trap heat and they die from hypothermia. It also reduces buoyancy and makes it harder for the animals to swim
- Animals could also die from ingestion and suffocate from smothering.
These bird most likely died from suffocation and smothering, and these pictures are only two of many thousands of animals that died in the accident.
However, actions to remediate the damage done by the oil, were taken.
- Mechanical methods: Booms, absorbents, skimmers, and blotters were used to reduce the amount of oil in the water.
- Absorbent booms skim and absorb water off the top
- Chemical Methods: Coagulants and dispersing agents like fire were used to get rid of the oil
- Biological: The use of bacteria or plants to neutralize contaminants: bioremediation.
It really is unbelievable the impact of these spills. At least now we know what measures can be taken in the event of another spill and can be prepared if another happens. We just have to learn from our mistakes..
A funny video that explains the chain of events of the Deepwater Horizon Spill…