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The Impact Of Oil Spills On The Environment

The Impact Of Oil Spills On The Environment

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How Do Oil Spills Affect Sea Turtles?

New oil leak reported after ferry that repeatedly ran aground off Swedish coast freed

Oil spill, the flow of oil onto the surface of a large body of water. In the 1960s, oil spills into the oceans became a major environmental problem, largely due to increased exploration and production of oil on the continental shelves and the use of supertankers capable of carrying more than 500,000 metric tons of oil. Spectacular oil spills from wrecked or damaged supertankers are now rare due to strict shipping and environmental regulations. Despite this, thousands of small and several large oil spills are reported each year related to well discharges and tanker operations, totaling more than one million metric tons of oil released into the world’s oceans each year. Intentional or negligent releases of used gasoline solvents and crankcase lubricants by industries and individuals exacerbate general environmental problems. Combined with natural seepage from the ocean floor, these sources add 3.5 to 6 million tons of oil to the world’s waterways annually.

The costs of oil spills are enormous, both economically and environmentally. Oil on the ocean surface is harmful to many forms of aquatic life because it prevents sufficient sunlight from reaching the surface and also reduces dissolved oxygen levels. Crude oil destroys the insulating and waterproof properties of feathers and fur, so oil-covered birds and marine mammals can die of hypothermia. In addition, ingested oil can be toxic to affected animals, and damage to their habitat and reproductive rates can slow the long-term recovery of animal populations from the short-term damage caused by the spill itself. Damage to plant life can also be significant; salt marshes and mangroves are two important coastal ecosystems that are often affected by oil spills. If beaches and inhabited coastlines are polluted, tourism and commerce, as well as power plants and other utilities that draw or discharge seawater from the coast, can be severely affected. One of the industries most affected by oil spills is fishing. After a major oil spill, commercial fishing is suspended immediately, at least to prevent damage to vessels and equipment, and to prevent the capture and sale of potentially contaminated fish or shellfish.

Fireboat crews try to extinguish a fire on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, April 21, 2010.

What We Know About The California Oil Spill So Far

The immediate environmental effects of oil spills are easily identified, but their long-term effects on the ecosystem of the affected area are more difficult to assess. The cost of compensating individuals and communities affected by oil spills has been a major incentive to reduce the likelihood of such incidents occurring in the future.

Although the spectacular spills of the last decades of the 20th century required major improvements in management technology and coordinated responses, a completely satisfactory method of cleaning up large oil spills has not yet been developed. Essentially, oil spill response efforts seek to contain the oil and remove it sufficiently so that economic activity can resume and the natural recovery processes of the marine environment can take over. Floating booms can be placed around the source of the spill or at the entrances to canals and harbors to reduce the spread of the oil slick on the sea surface. Skimming, like the use of booms, is the most effective method in calm waters, and involves various mechanisms that physically separate the oil from the water and place the oil in collection vessels. Another approach is to use various sorbents (such as straw, volcanic ash, and polyester plastic shavings) that absorb oil from water. If necessary, chemical surfactants and solvents can be spread over the slick to accelerate its natural dispersion into the sea. Removing oil from sandy beaches and rocky shores on land is a laborious task, often involving small crews of workers with hand tools or heavy construction-type equipment to scrape and remove the contaminated debris. does.

1978 disaster near Brittany, France (spill of 223,000 metric tons of crude oil and marine fuel). Both events led to permanent changes in the regulation of shipping and the organization of response to environmental emergencies such as oil spills. In North America, the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska caused major environmental and economic damage, although it was the largest oil spill in history when measured by the amount of oil spilled (37,000 metric tons). was much lower than the tanker spill. tons).

The Impact Of Oil Spills On The Environment

Largest oil tanker spill in history* rank ship name year location spill size (metric tons) damage *Source of rating and spill sizes: International Tanker Pollution Federation. Sources of damage notices: International Tanker Pollution Federation; Accidental water pollution documentation, research and experience center; and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 1 Atlantic Emperor 1979 Off Tobago, West Indies 287,000 After a collision with another tanker, Atlantic Emperor caught fire and was towed 300 nautical miles out to sea, where it sank. Although its entire cargo of crude oil was lost, only minor environmental damage was reported on some of the island’s coasts. 2 ABT Summer 1991 off Angola, southwest Africa 260,000 about 700 nautical miles from Angola, this tanker caught fire and sank with the loss of five crew members. Her cargo of crude oil was lost, but no environmental damage was reported. 3 Castillo de Bellver 1983 Off Saldanha Bay, South Africa 252,000 Castillo de Bellver caught fire, split in two, and sank. Its cargo of crude oil was dispersed by winds and currents. Minor damage to wildlife and coastline was reported. 4 Amoco Cadiz 1978 near Brittany, France 223,000 An Amoco Cadiz with a rudder failure crashed into the ground and split in two. Her entire cargo of crude oil and ship fuel spilled, polluting more than 300 km of Breton coastline and killing tens of thousands of birds and marine animals. Thousands of workers cleaned beaches and marshes in one of the largest oil spill response efforts. 5 Haven 1991 Genoa, Italy 144,000 Haven caught fire and broke up. Some crude oil was found in the sea, but about 100 km of coastline in Italy and France had to be mechanically cleaned. 6 Odyssey 1988 En route to Nova Scotia, Canada 132,000 The Odyssey, loaded with crude oil, split in two and sank in the Atlantic Ocean 700 nautical miles from its destination. Because it is far from land, no environmental damage has been recorded. 7 Torrey Canyon 1967 Isles of Scilly, near Cornwall, England 119,000 The Torrey Canyon ran aground, spilling an entire cargo of crude oil and polluting the coast of Cornwall, the Channel Islands and Brittany, France. It was later discovered that the powerful solvents used to disperse the oil spills were more harmful to the environment than the spilled oil itself. 8 Sea Star 1972 Gulf of Oman 115,000 The Sea Star, carrying crude oil, collided with another tanker, caught fire and sank with the loss of 12 crew. No environmental damage has been reported. 9 Irenes Serenade 1980 Navarino Bay, Greece 100,000 This tanker caught fire and sank while refueling in the port of Pylos. Some of the spilled crude oil and ship fuel was recovered at sea, but some washed ashore and had to be cleaned up by hundreds of workers on land and in small boats. 10 Urquiola 1976 La Coruña, Spain 100,000 The Urquiola, loaded with crude oil, ran aground in port and burned with the loss of its captain. Some of the oil from the ship was salvaged, recovered from the sea surface, or dispersed by heavy chemical use, but the nearby shoreline was covered in oil and debris and only partially cleaned up. 11 Hawaiian Patriot 1977 Honolulu, Hawaii, USA 95,000 The Hawaiian Patriot ruptured in a storm and then caught fire and sank 300 nautical miles from its destination, killing one crewman. Ocean currents dispersed the spilled crude oil. 12 Independenţa 1979 Off Istanbul, Turkey 95,000 Independenţa collided with another ship and burned in the southern Bosphorus, with the loss of 43 crew. Much of the spilled crude oil burned, although the surrounding coastline and offshore beaches

Explainer: Why Is It So Hard To Clean Up An Offshore Oil Spill?

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