Oil SpillsOil is a product used by everyone, but sometimes oil is a problem. An oil spill is a
leakage from an oceangoing tanker, pipelines, or other oil sources. Oil spills occur very
frequently, and cause enormous ecological harm. About eight million barrels of oil are
spilled each year. Tankers usually carry about five-hundred million barrels of oil.
Many oil spills, large in land or ocean coverage, have had major impacts on the
earth and it’s inhabitants. Many animals are die and some are injured in some way. Many
plants and animals are endangered, or are now extinct. The largest oil spill to occur was
when the Exxon Valdez went aground and covered 4,800 square miles in Prince William
Sound, Alaska. This spill killed 35,000 sea birds, 10,000 otters, and at least nine whales.
The spill left pools of oil up to three feet on some beaches. In December of 1989, an
Iranian tanker leaked 70,000 tons, about 19 million gallons of oil off of the coast of
Morocco. In January 1990 a broken Exxon pipeline leaked 567,000 gallons into the New
York harbor. In June of 1990, another 260,000 gallons were spilled in New York Harbor.
A tanker carrying 38 million gallons of oil caught on fire, and leaked oil into the Gulf of
Mexico. This was a very serious threat to local shrimp nurseries and wildlife refuges. In
February of 1990, 300,000 gallons leaked from a damaged tanker off Southern California,
fouling miles of shoreline. In the Niger River delta, in Nigeria, Shell pipelines have
repeatedly burst. In 1970 oil spilled across 8 square km, which remained contaminated for
over 20 years.
According to the U.S. Coast guard, the incident rate post is only 0.5 spills per
year. In fact, there have been no large spills over 5,000 barrels from tankers in the US
since 1991. The US Coast Guard data shows that the amount of oil spilled by tankers has
decreased dramatically. Worldwide pollution from tanker spills is a relatively minor
source of marine pollution. It only represents a small fraction of the oil released to the
environment, when it is being compared to industrial waste, non-tanker shipping, and oil
seepage from natural resources. Ships are but one part of an overall safety system that
includes charting, aids to navigation, the condition of channels, and the resources that the
Coast guard can bring to ensure standards are being met. The United States suffers from
measurable neglect in portions of it’s marine infrastructure.
The Refuse Act, which was first enacted in 1899, makes it a crime to allow refuse
to enter navigable waters. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act, makes it a crime to kill certain
birds. These laws were not intended to apply to an oil spill, but prosecutors use them to
intimidate and punish individuals without an obvious connection to a spill. The single
most positive improvement that Congress can make to the legal regime, is to amend the
Refuse Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, to make them inapplicable to oil spills
covered in the Clean Water Act. Oil Spill Wildlife Management (OSWM), in business
since 1989, is a wildlife consulting firm. OSWM offers it’s clients an alternative to the
wildlife dilemma. Donjon Environmental Marine Services is a synergistic organization
created to provide the maritime industry with responsive, and cost-effective answers to
meet the requirements of The Oil Pollution Act of 1990. Garner Environmental Services
provides a 24 hour emergency response for any type of pollution incidents. Garner
Environmental Services specializes in the management of disposal of waste streams, and
maintains a fleet if equipment and drivers to transport these waste streams from industries
on the Gulf Coast. Clean Venture Inc. is a leading contractor in handling waste, and
hazardous oil materials. Since, it’s establishment, Clean Venture Inc., has responded to
more than five thousand oil and hazardous material spills and has performed over ten
thousand projects, ranging in size from 1,000 to 3,000,000 dollars.
How can we prevent oil spills? The US oil and natural gas industry, supplies more
than 65 percent of America’s energy. ?By nearly every measure, the volume of spills in
US waters has been on a steady downward trend since 1973,? states Captain James D.
Spitzer, the chief of the US Coast Guard’s Office of Investigations. Most spills that occur
are usually small, based on data from the US Coast Guard. In 1997, more than
three-fourths of the spills in US waters were under ten gallons of oil, which is less than a
car’s fuel tank can hold. From the year of 1989, the year of the Exxon Valdez accident,
the amount of oil spilled in US waters has declined from fourteen million gallons to 1.1
million gallons spilled in 1997. Every part of the modern petroleum industry has
contributed to the progress being made. Exploration and production facilities use
advanced materials and techniques, with plenty of back up safety systems. Pipelines use
computers, electromagnetic instruments, and ultrasonic devices to detect weak spots, so
they can be repaired before it is to late and a leak develops. Marine terminals and vessels
are being made differently. Tankers are being built with double hulls. Storage tanks are
constructed of special materials to withstand corrosion. People play important roles in
prevention, by signing petitions, striking companies, and some boycott, which isn’t
successful because oil is an everyday use. Everyone can become a part of the
conservation and prevention of oil spills.