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How Are Oil Spills Cleaned Up?

Crude oil can sometimes be accidentally released into water, causing an oil spill. This can happen due to an incident with an oil tanker or refinery. It can also occur following offshore oil-drilling. An oil spill can be extremely hazardous to the environment, destroying marine life and causing lasting ecological damage.

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Notorious Exxon Valdez Spill Was One of Worst in History

The most widely known disaster is the Exxon Valdez oil spill, which occurred in Prince William Sound in Alaska in 1989. An oil tanker owned by the Exxon Shipping Company, which was headed toward California, struck Prince William Sound less than two miles west of Tatitlek, Alaska. Over 10.8 million US gallons of crude oil spilled out of the vessel.

There are a number of ways to tackle an oil spill, including using dispersants, which work in a similar way to dishwashing liquids. Oil becomes broken up into small droplets suspended in water. Breaking up the oil at sea into drops allows them to be dispersed into the sea by the waves. Bacteria then consume these drops and the dispersant biodegrades. Dispersants can be sprayed from vessels or helicopters.

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Often problems can be encountered on land rather than at sea. A soil remediation service can help rectify problems on land, and experts such as will be able to take the pressure off.

Booms and skimmers can also be used to fight oil spills. Booms act as floating barriers around the oil or the vessel or pipe from which the oil is leaking. Boats or vacuum machines are skimmers which skim the oil off the surface of the water.

Some Scientists Believe the Spill Should Be Left Alone

Some scientists will make the point that spills should be left to disperse naturally. They can be dispersed by natural processes which involve winds, water currents and waves breaking up the oil. However, if the oil from the spill has burrowed its way into a low-energy environment, it will become buried in sediments and the pollution can persist for years.

According to The Guardian, thousands of Brazilians gathered to clean beaches following a mystery oil spillage.

Freshly spilled oil can also be burned while it’s still floating on the surface of the water, but the effectiveness of the clean-up depends very much on the situation. All methods have positives and negatives.


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