Here we go again with the constant re-pollution of our ocean after millions of gallons of oil has already been spilled into it. Throughout the decade, there have been a numerous amount of oil spills that, in all, equals to millions upon millions of gallons of oil in the ocean. Companies tend to use cleaning methods that do more harm than good for the environment. The millions of gallons that have contaminated the ocean have done so much damage already, there is no need to add more chemicals into the ocean to clean it up; instead, with using developing environmentally safe alternatives to clean up the spills it would significantly decrease the amount of oil present as well as not doing further harm to the ocean. There are several other alternatives that could be used to clean up mass oil spills such as peat moss, human hair, and plant based chemicals. Although these are still developing alternatives, these methods have very promising results with little repercussions to the environment as a result of several tests that were ran in previous years (Add Citation). These alternatives have a more positive effect on the environment in comparison to the normal methods businesses are choosing to clean up their messes. Oil companies should resort to using organic alternatives to clean up oil spills such as peat moss, hair, and plant based chemicals for the restoration and stabilization of the ocean.
History of Oceanic Oil Spills
According to a 2011 article by CBS News, there has been a countless amount of oil spills, because they apparently happen “” all the time”” (Keteyian, A. (2011, April 12). Oil & gas industry spills happen “”all the time””). Oil spills weren’t a big problem till both developed and undeveloped countries the turned to fossil fuels to run their countries. Oil was and is the fastest growing industry ever since it first became popular in the nineteenth century. The gross domestic product of the Oil industry, also known as the Oil and Gas Industry, is between $75 to $85 trillion. Assuming that there is no stopping the popularity of the oil industry, the world will keep using this resource till eventually there is none left. Most oil spills go unnoticed unless they cause a mass disturbance to the public’s health. Then once it’s a threat to the public’s health the environmental concerns come up soon after.
Deepwater Horizon BP Oil Spill
The Deepwater Horizon BP Oil Spill that occurred in April of 2010, was one of the most historically catastrophic oil spills in America. For the reason being that 200 million gallons of oil was spilled into the Gulf of Mexico, it quickly became one of the biggest and most expensive oil spills in U.S. history (Pallardy, R. (2018, April 13). Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010). Due to there being a large amount of oil and hardly any time to clean it up, because the longer the oil stays in the ocean the greater the consequences will be on both the marine life and the oil companies. Not only was the public pushing for the oil companies to clean up their mess, the companies themselves were trying to clean it up quickly because of the bad publicity. Due to the rush, BP used dispersants in order to clean up the oil spill (Ocean Portal Team, & Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative. (2018, July 02). Gulf Oil Spill.).
Port Arthur Oil Spill
In the 2010 Port Arthur oil spill on January 23, 2010 two large ships crashed at the port, one of them being an oil tanker. This resulted in The 2010 Port Arthur oil spill was the result of a collision between two vessels in the Sabine-Neches Waterway at Port Arthur, Texas on January 23, 2010. The two vessels were the oil tanker Eagle Otome and a barge being pushed by the towboat Dixie Vengeance. (about to add more research)
Original Cleaning Methods
Companies choosing to clean up the oil spills that they’ve caused is better than them leaving just it alone, waiting for the oil to naturally disperse decompose by itself which could take a countless years only to either sink to the bottom or rise to the surface and pose as a threat to the health of both the marine life and human life. To even clean the oil with the regular methods is a process that could take multiple years. This process depends on the amount of oil that was spilled, then the amount of time it takes to clean up will be determined by the method the company chooses.
Millions of gallons of toxic chemicals were dumped into the ocean and I’m not referencing the oil spills.Dispersants are known to be one of the easiest and fastest ways to clean up oil spills. But that’s because they are hiding the problem in small particles and letting them sink to the ocean floor. Dispersants are one of the easiest clean up methods to manufacture because they are able to be produced in large quantities and they are somewhat easy to make on the spot when a large scale oil spill happens. Throughout the years, there have been numerous oil spills and the companies tend to use a method that distributes large amounts of absorbent plastic to clean up the spill. This method doesn’t reduce the amount of oil that is in the ocean but, it coats each particle of oil similar to that of soap. They work with constant wave action that mixes the dispersant in with the ocean. From there the coated oil particles float down to the bottom of the ocean (Overton, 2018). There are many negative environmental factors that come up because of the large mix of the dispersants into the ocean. Not only do dispersants greatly impact the marine ecosystem, it can also affect people’s lives, especially those that live near the coasts. When the marine life come in contact with toxic chemicals, such as the ones found in dispersants, it can decrease fishes life expectancies, increase death rates in coral reefs, permanently damage sea turtles organs, and if birds get the oil on their wings they have a higher risk of hypothermia and early death. As for people who live near or on the coast it can affect regular bodily function in organs, also a higher risk to diseases, and even early death (Gulf Disaster. n.d.). Companies believe that if the oil can’t be seen then it is simply not a problem anymore.
In Situ Burning
In Situ burning, also known as ISB, is a method that is uses fire to burn off most if not all the oil that was spilled (In Situ Burning. (2018, December 19). This method has to be used with the utmost care because there are several factors that could put the workers and marine life at risk. The reason why is that a fire has to be set in order for the oil to be used up and there are several risk just from that alone. One of the risks being that if the fire is not set properly then the fire has the potential to get out of hand and do more damage to the environment if it were just to be left alone in the first place. The main responsibility is that the that the fire has to be controlled and contained especially if the amount of oil o that it doesn’t spread to any vessels that are helping control the fire or any structures that could be surround the site of the spill. Also taking into account that if the fire gets out of control it would be puting the marine life and workers lives at risk. This would result
Organic Cleaning Alternatives
There are several “”green”” alternatives in the making. Oil is already a organic product, which means that there is most likely another organic solution. Amongst the normal ways that oil spills are cleaned up, the organic alternatives are too often overlooked. Such alternatives are like peat moss, hair, and bacteria. What big businesses are missing is an even cheaper alternative compared to the high expense dispersants. The companies are doing what is the easiest, and because all you do for the absorbent plastic is dump it into the contaminated area, you don’t have to exert any more energy to clean up the dispersant let alone pay workers to clean it up. All dispersants do is hide the problem so well that the public doesn’t have to worry about oil spills affecting them. Because they are able to coat the oil and make them microscopic particles, it’s simply becomes “”if you can’t see it, it’s not a problem”” type problem. But in all actuality the plastic is just a coating around the oil and letting it sink to the bottom (Overton, E. (2018, November 19). [Personal interview by the author]).
While some other methods to clean up oil spills involve some extensive amount of manual labor, peat moss is actually an easily accessible product. So much so that it is commonly used by gardeners to add nutrients to their plants. Although one of its uses is a typical fertilizer it also has another use as an oil absorbent. An example of its use as an oil absorbent was in 2009 in Norway, they had a considerably large oil predicament along their shoreline during the summer. They allowed one of the local environmental scientist, Kallak TorvstrГёfabrikk, to use his developing use of peat moss to clean up the shoreline. The results to his method to use the one hundred percent organic peat moss “” proved to be worth its weight in gold in a crisis.”” (The Research Council of Norway. (2010, April 15). This method has only been tested in Norway but the results from the large test on their shoreline, showed that it is capable of handling a large amount of oil and cleaning it up with little to no negative effects on the marine environment.
Hair is a natural absorbent, it has cracks in each strand that makes it able to absorb oil through the shafts of the hair. Because hair is so easily accessible it makes production cost cheap and the hair sponges are easy to make. Human hair is a natural oil absorbent it’s the reason why we need to use shampoo when we shower. Hair has holes and cracks in each strand, it is able to absorb three to nine times its weight. It is great at saving space because it doesn’t expand like a sponge but is still able to hold a lot of oil. Most oil that is spilled into the ocean rises to the surface while the little that is left sinks to the bottom. Because the large surface area that is prevalent in oceanic oil spills, hair would be able to easily able to absorb the oil that it at the surface. It would not only be more affordable but also eco friendly because there aren’t any harsh chemicals in it and it is also easily accessible.
Plant Based Chemicals
Natural organisms such as Microorganisms, Bacteria, Bioremediation, eat oil that invades their ecosystem and in combination with sulfate or nitrate they multiply exponentially. They are able to eat five times the amount of toxic chemicals without any other assistance needed (Biello, D. (2010, May 25). Slick Solution: How Microbes Will Clean Up the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill).
There are a multitude of factors that come in to affect the economic value of such crisis as mass oil spills. For example, when the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill occured, the overall cost to clean it up and pay off the lawsuits was about 62 billion dollars (Yurgaitis, D. How Much It Costs to Clean Up an Oil Spill (2017, January 11). One factor that affects the costs depends on how many tons of oil is spilled as well as where it was spilled. Another thing that can affect the costs of how much oil spill clean up can be location, such as if is on land, relatively near the shoreline, or places for offshore drilling. Not only does the location matter, but in order to figure out the total loss, the type of oil must be identified. This plays an extremely important role to the costs because some oils is more costly compared to other such as vegetable oil to crude oil. Once the type of oil that was spilled is identified, they are able to make a decision on the method they are paying for to clean that type of oil. Big companies that choose to use dispersants need to understand that they could be saving a substantial amount of money by using organic alternatives, such as peat moss or hair that are easily accessible. This would be a safer route especially towards the public is if the spill is relatively near the shoreline, or could potentially come close to the public. to the public because they are taking responsibility for their action as well as doing what is best for the marine life.
There is a limited amount of laws regarding the clean up methods on how deal with oil spills. The ones that are relevant only discuss the responsibilities and prevention when oil spills do happen. Although there are laws that ensure that oil spills are cleaned up, they don’t necessarily ensure that the clean up methods are eco- friendly. Like most companies, they go for the fastest solution to clean up the oil so that way they can disregard the backlash for spilling oil in the first place. The public has a great influence of how oil spills are treated solely for the fact that they want the toxic chemicals cleaned up as fast as possible. Therefore, they are putting more pressure on the companies to fix the mess they made. With all the pressure that they are putting on Dispersants is usually the solution that is taken, because it is able to hide the oil faster than putting actual man labor hours into doing the job fast and of course eco friendly. But what companies fail to understand is that with choosing dispersants, it means that they are paying for more toxic chemicals to be made in order to hide the toxic chemicals they originally spilled. They also have to take into account that they need to hire workers to dump the chemicals into the infected area. There are obviously some problems that could arise from doing this, such as the death of workers. There was a case where some workers died because they came in contact with both the oil as well as the cleanup chemical that was used (Cobiella, K. (2010, June 24). The Human Toll of the Oil Spill). That is when several lawsuits came up and had to be sorted out, which also affects the costs of how much is spent on
Oil spills are a very prevalent problem in major oil manufacturing states and countries, while Virginia has never been on the list of such states and countries, there has been some instances where minor oil spills have come up. Virginia used to have three crude oil refineries but have all been closed in previous years (Oil Refining in Virginia,2012). Because Virginia isn’t and was never a main oil distributor, we’ve only been susceptible to small oil spills. In Roanoke, Virginia; there was an incident where a train that was carrying soybean oil ran off the tracks and spilled a ten gallons in the New River. The soybean oil was labeled non-hazardous and was cleaned up in a matter of weeks. In another event, in Campbell County, which is south of Lynchburg, a significant amount of heating oil was spilled into a pond. The public was obviously concerned with how fast the oil was going to be cleaned up. And they were wondering with how it will be affecting their home life such as, if it’ll affect their health, their children’s health, and their food source. The company had to close off the pond and several professionals had to show up so they were able to see how hazardous the chemical is. They had to take immediate action to clean it up (Gangloff, M. (2018, January 15). Giles County train derailment: Four cars involved, small amount of soybean oil spilled, spokeswoman says).
The risks that are connected to the regular methods that are used to clean up oil spills are extensive. All of them being that they take a significant amount of money, time and effort.