World Oil Pollution: Causes, Prevention and Clean-Up
Oil in the oceans is one of the ugliest forms of marine pollution. Just thinking about oil pollution in the oceans conjures up images of massive tanker spills, oiled seabirds and shorelines covered with gooey black oil. However, oil spills are not the major cause of oceanic oil pollution. Instead the majority of marine oil pollution comes from other sources. This page will examine the causes of marine oil pollution and methods for pollution prevention and spill cleanup. Types of Marine Oil Pollution
Oil spills are actually just a small percent of the total world oil pollution problem. According to Ocean Planet there are 706 million gallons of oil pollution in a given year. That is a massive amount of oil! The following chart will indicate the different methods of oil pollution and their respective percentage of total pollution.
Types of Oil Pollution
Large Oil Spills
Up in Smoke
Down the Drain
Total World Oil Pollution Millions of Gallons
706 Percentage of the World Total
100 percent As you can plainly see from the chart oil spills only represent a little over five percent of the total amount of oil pollution. However, large oil spills are the most visible forms of oil pollution in the world. The definitions of the different forms of oil pollution are as follows. Offshore drilling pollution comes from operation discharges and drilling accidents during oceanic oil exploration. Large oil spills typically result from and oil tanker accidents such as collisions and groundings. Natural oil pollution (seeps) comes from seepage off the ocean floor and eroding sedimentary rocks. Natural oil pollution into the marine environment has occurred for thousands if not millions of years. Up in Smoke: This type of oil pollution comes from oil consumption in automobiles and industry. Typically the oil hydrocarbons find their way into the ocean through atmospheric fallout. Oil pollution from routine maintenance occurs from ship bilge cleaning and so forth. Lastly, oil pollution occurs from people dumping oils and oil Oil tanker Amoco Cadiz. This tanker ran aground off the coast of France in 1978 spilling 68.7 million gallons of oil. Spills such asBlowout of exploratory well Ixtox 1 in 1979. When workers were able to stop this blowout in 1980 an estimated 140 million gallons of oil had spilled into the ocean. This is the second largest spill ever smaller only than the deliberate oil spills that ended the Kuwait-Iraq war of 1991. Image borrowed from Office of Response and Restoration, National Ocean Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Preventing Marine Oil Pollution
There are many different methods of prevention to stop marine oil pollution. In the case of oil exploration and oil tankers there are new procedures and equipment to ensure that less pollution occurs. Most oil tankers now are double hulled to reduce the chance of oil leakage if a tanker runs aground. Oceangoing ships filter out most of the oil from bilge maintenance to ensure that it does not reach the ocean. Used oil recycling facilities exist to ensure people do not pour oil down stormdrains and pollute millions of gallons of water. Another method is for people to spray-paint fish pictures near storm-drains so people do not put oils and other substances down the drain. This method is cheap and remarkably effective as people find other ways to properly dispose of oils. Even will all of these new methods for oil pollution reduction oil pollution still does occur.
Dangers of Oil Pollution to the Marine Environment
So why is oil so bad for the marine environment? Oil exposure damages animal fur and feathers so they cannot stay warm and many of these oiled animals will die by freezing to death. Other problems include accidental poisoning by ingesting oil, blindness from oil exposure, liver damage and other disabilities. If there is a large oil spill humans have to clean up the excess pollution to ensure that fewer animals will die. The following two pictures show beaches damaged by oil pollution.
this one are very rare events. Image borrowed from Office of Response and Restoration, National Ocean Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
products down stormdrOil tanker Mega-Borg released 5.1 million gallons of oil as a result of an oil transfer accident. Image borrowed from Office of Response and Restoration, National Ocean Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
ains after oil changes, urban street runoff and so forth. The worst oil pollution comes from oil dumped into the drains and road runoff. The following images illustrate some oil spills and accidents thFreighter after running aground. Notice the oil leaking out into the ocean. Image borrowIn both of these pictures notice the amounts of oil pollution on the beaches. Any animals that come into contact with this oil will likely be poisoned, get oil on their fur or feathers and die from freezing or perhaps suffer permanent disabilities. Beach clean-up occurs to minimize the chance of animals either Water Pollution
Everybody needs fresh water. Without water people, animals and plants cannot live. Although a few plants and animals can make do with saltwater, all humans need a constant supply of fresh water if they are to stay fit and healthy. Of the total supply of water on the Earth, only about 3 percent of it is fresh, and most of that is stored as ice and snow at the poles, or is so deep under the surface of the Earth that we cannot get to it. Despite so much of the water being out of reach, we still have a million cubic miles of it that we can use. That's about 4,300,000 cubic kilometers of fresh water to share out between most of the plants, animals and people on the planet.
Whether water is clean enough to use, or too polluted depends on many things such as where it is, whether there is enough for everyone to use, what we do with it, and how we deal with the water we have used before we let it run back to join the rivers and lakes.
The Developing World
In the developing world the biggest problem is the shortage of water and the lack of clean supplies. When water is very scarce people have to make good use of it. That might mean using the same source of water for drinking and cooking, a place to wash, a place to clean clothing, pots and pans and a place to let the farm animals drink as well. The same water is used by many people for many different purposes, and each time the water becomes a little more polluted.
Imagine a river that is the only source of water for a series of farming villages along its banks.
The people in the first village might be very careful and always get their drinking water from above the village, do all their washing a little further down stream, and let their animals drink in the river as it leaves their village. By being very careful and aware of basic hygiene they can try to stay healthy. They can do very little to protect themselves from dead animals decaying in the river further upstream, or from germs and parasites introduced to the water by wild animals.
As the river leaves their village the water will have been polluted by washed bodies, food scraps from washed pots and pans, and body waste from the farm animals and village dwellers. The people in the next village will have to drink this polluted water, and will suffer from the diseases that accompany dirty water.
If an animal dies and falls into the only water supply for miles around, the people still have to drink the water. If the water is thick with mud and snails, but is the only water within reach, people have to drink it.
Whether the water source is a river, a lake or a well, the problems are similar throughout the developing world; little piped and sterilised water, and not enough water to go round means that the same source has to be used for everything, and the risk of pollution and disease is very high.
The Developed World
You might think that in developed countries with more money to spend on health care, water supplies and pollution control, water pollution wouldn't be a problem. If people in developed countries lived a life similar to that of people in the developing countries, but used all their high technology skills, the developed world might have an almost pollution free water supply. Unfortunately that's not the case. The developed world produces things in factories, people drive around in cars, and want farmers to grow disease and pest free crops. The problem is that people in the developed world create far more pollution than their counterparts in the developing world.
Factories can produce huge quantities of pollution that end up in the water supply and it's not just the waste that goes directly into the rivers that causes problems.
Smoke from chimneys can contain harmful chemicals such as those which create acid rain. When it rains, all these chemicals are brought back down to the ground in the rain drops, and then find their way into the water supply.
Chemicals sprayed onto fields and crops, such as pesticides ( to kill insects ), herbicides ( to kill weeds ) and fertilizers ( to make crops grow faster, stronger and quicker ) can all soak into the soil when it rains. Eventually the chemicals are washed into drainage ditches, streams or rivers, and thus into the drinking water.
Sometimes dangerous chemicals have been dumped in places where they can escape into the water supply. Rubbish Dumps and Toxic Waste Sites are all supposed to have a waterproof layer around them to stop chemicals escaping, but sometimes it doesn't work. There are many older dumps where the site isn't waterproof and nobody knows exactly what was dumped there!
Love Canal and the U.S.A
A good example is the Love Canal site near Niagra Falls in the United States of America. During the 1940's and 1950's the canal was used as a dump for 22,000 tonnes of chemical wastes. The site was then filled in and covered in soil, and houses built over the top. In 1978 it was noticed that many people there were ill and that children were being born with defects. It didn't take long to discover why, and the worst affected areas were evacuated. Six years later the U.S government had discovered another 17,500 similar sites, 546 of which were considered to be dangerous to the health of people living there. At many of these sites, chemicals are leaking out into the groundwater supply causing serious pollution.
Did you know that over 700 different chemicals have been found in US drinking water when it comes out of the tap! The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies 129 of these chemicals as being 'particularly dangerous'.
In 1982 the EPA found poisonous chemicals in the water supply of 35 different states. In 25 states the contamination was so serious that wells had to be closed.
The River Rhine and Europe
The River Rhine is regarded as being Europe's dirtiest river. Almost one fifth of all the chemical production in the world takes place along its banks. Despite the best attempt to purify the river water before it becomes drinking water, Cornelius van der Veen, the head of the Dutch water works in the Rhine catchment area, once said "Even well-thought-out purification and reprocessing systems mean that just about every substance present in untreated water is also to be found in drinking water."
On 1st November 1986, the Sandoz chemical factory in Switzerland had a warehouse fire. While the firemen were extinguishing the flames they sprayed water over drums of chemicals that were exploding due to the heat. The water and chemical mixture was washed into the Rhine, dumping 30 tonnes of pesticides, chemical dyes and fungicides into the river. As a result the river life died up to 100 miles downstream. Things could have been worse though. A nearby building contained sodium, a metal that reacts violently with water. If the fire hoses had been sprayed on the stored Sodium, the explosion could have destroyed a group of storage tanks holding the nerve gas, Phosgene!
After the fire had been put out, the German government ( West Germany at that time ) checked the water as it passed through Germany. They discovered a high level of a chemical called Atrazine ( a herbicide ) that wasn't listed as having been stored at the Sandoz site. Eventually another giant chemical company, Ciba-Geigy, admitted that they'd had an accident the day before and spilled 100 gallons of Atrazine into the river. The West German government didn't believe this figure and stated that nearer to 1500 gallons must have entered the river.
As the monitoring of the Sandoz chemiWorld Trade Center/Pentagon Attacks
Why Did They Happen? What Do They Mean?
From Mark Sommer
The collapse of the World Trade Towers and devastation of the Pentagon drive home the stunning realization that for all our military might, we Americans are no longer invulnerable to the world's deadly quarrels. Out of the dust, rubble and grief emerge many questions:
… How could a nation with the most fearsome firepower the world has ever known fail to fend off a band of attackers with neither a nation, weapon nor treasury of its own? Could any conventional military force, any missile defense, any space laser, stop a malcontent from turning an American commercial airliner into a weapon of mass destruction?