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Impact of Oil Spills on the Environment

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Oil Spills and Our Environment[MB1]

Oil spills have been a major environmental concern when it comes to humans, land and water, aquatic and wild life. Oil can be detrimental to both humans and animals. An oil spill is liquid petroleum that is released into the environment. This happens because of human activity and it is pollution. The word describes aquatic oil spills, where oil is released into the ocean or coastal waters (epa.earthday).

These spills may happen on land, as well. When oil is spilled on water it becomes hazardous and endangers our environment and our aquatic ecosystems. The way it pollutes our land is through our resources from our land and the organisms that live below the Earth’s surface. Oil spills are capable of destroying the very life forms that are associated with our food resources. Our environment can be impaired by the physical damages oil causes when animals come into contact with it. The animals can get coated with oil, and with oil being so toxic, it is capable of poisoning organisms that become open to the elements. Oils are not all the same. They have differences, and those differences are petroleum based or non-petroleum based. Oils can have different chemical make ups that give them unique physical distinctiveness. Oils that are Petroleum based can be different varieties of natural hydrocarbon based elements and process petroleum effects. These distinctions will affect the way that oil expands and separates. It is good to know the type of oil that one is dealing with because this can help to associate the hazardous dangers that the oil is capable of posing to human and aquatic life. There is also a likelihood that oil is capable of posing a threat to natural and man-made resources, as well (epa).

Oils can cause immediate and long-term harmful effects on the environment. They can pose a danger and be deadly to our wildlife. Non-petroleum oils have the capability to diminish the oxygen needed by our aquatic organisms, foul aquatic life, and the feathers of wildlife. Birds can lose their feathers from oil, and the feathers are a vital part of their protective covering. When birds come in contact with oil, it puts the birds in danger of freezing to death or suffocate their embryos. When birds get drenched in oil they transfer oil from the feathers to the eggs. When ingested by fouls through eating, oil can kill them. Some of the other effects of spilled oil on birds and other wildlife consists of suffocation, dehydration, drowning, or starvation. The non-petroleum oils have similarities to petroleum-based oils but they do differ. One of the similarities is that they are both soluble in water and it is limited. Both oils create oil slicks at the surface of water. They both develop mixtures of different substances and sludge’s which looks muddy. Although, non-petroleum oils are known to linger in the environment for a long time. It is also good to remember how they have catastrophic effects on birds and mammals (

Immediate response is a necessity when rescuing birds and aquatic mammals. This procedure is not done by just anyone, therefore, training is needed. In order to rehabilitate our oiled wildlife can be a complex procedure. Those who volunteer for this cause must be trained properly, and commit themselves to correctly documented procedures thoroughly, and avoid taking any shortcuts. Also, there must be communication with other agencies in order for the wildlife rescue operation to be a success (greenlivingtips).

When birds are brought to the facility oil is flushed from its eyes and intestines immediately. The workers examine to see if they have broken bones, cuts, or other injuries. If the birds that come in have a lot of oil on them, that gets wiped with cloths that absorbs and removes the oil blotches. They are also administered oral medicines that coat their stomachs in case of ingestion. This prevents any other oil to get absorbed into the bird’s stomach. Once all this is done, the bird is then warmed and isolated within a silent area. In the area where wildlife is taken, curtains are hung around them to limit their contact with humans. Because nutrition is very essential for the recovery of oiled birds, sometimes they must be forced fed until they are able to feed themselves. Once the bird is responsive, stable, and alert, they softly rub a detergent into the bird’s feathers to remove the oil until the oil is gone. Then the bird is rinsed and cleaned and put in a clean, warm, holding pen that is covered with curtains. If the bird’s behavior seems normal during observation, then the bird is allowed to swim. They allow this so the bird can preen and realign its feathers. This action restores the feathers to their original structure and helps the bird to become water resistant. The waterproofing test is done prior to freeing a bird back into its natural habitat. They will not release the bird unless it is capable of floating and keeping the water away from its body. This procedure is quickly done because it is toxic the birds and can kill them (greenlivingtips).

The Oil Experiment

Materials My Prediction Conclusion
cotton Will soak up the oil but not be able to clean the oil Oil Spread to cotton and it did not clean up the oil
plastic Will get oily and will not be able to clean the oil Plastic became oily and did not clean up the oil
newspaper Will soak up the oil but will not be able to clean the oil Oil soaked in paper and it did not clean up the oil
paper towel Will soak up the oil but will not be able to clean the oil Oil soaked in paper and it did not clean up the oil
feather Will get drenched in the oil, will not be able to clean up the oil Feather became drenched in oil and it did not clean up the oil
cotton material Will soak up the oil but will not be able to clean the oil Oil soaked in cotton and it did not clean up the oil
nylon material Will become oily itself but will not be able to clean the oil Oil soaked in nylon and it did not clean up the oil
string Will get drenched in oil not be able to clean the oil String too small became oily and it did not clean up the oil
Dish detergent


Should break down the oil It cleaned up the oil

The Conclusion of the Experiment

The oil was not easy to clean, although Dawn dishwashing liquid seemed to have the capabilities of breaking the oil down. When I added the oil to the water, the oil floated on the surface of the water. I expected that much because I have seen this before. What I didn’t expect was the fact that the cotton didn’t clean it completely. The oil in water was very difficult to clean up with all my materials except the dawn dish detergent. The material that absorbed the oil the best was the cotton, but it didn’t clean it. It just soaked some of the oil up or expanded it, I’m not quite sure. The material that absorbed the oil the least was the plastic, and the rest of my materials didn’t work either. I used the generic dollar general brand of paper towel. When I used dawn dish detergent, it worked.

Oil Spills

The Exxon Valdez oil spill is much considered to be the most disastrous oil spill in the world, but as far as the worst environmental disaster in history it doesn’t even rank among the top fifty of the recorded largest oil spills. As far as being the oil spill having the worst environmental impact on a region, Exxon is acknowledge. The oil spill caused approximately 11 million gallons of oil to escape from a tanker’s hull, and it still continues to have an effect on the area. The Alaskan waters known as Prince William Sound has never been the same once the ship hit Bligh Reef (Lovgren).

Late at night, on March 24, 1989, a tanker called the Exxon Valdez swerved from the shipping lane in Prince William Sound, Alaska to avoid icebergs and crashed on Bligh Reef. This event was one of the largest oil spill from a vessel in US history at that time. Succeeding spills have leaked out much more. In 1978, four-hundred million gallons of oil was spilled along the coast of Mexico. Another time was 1978, sixty-nine million gallons were spilled by the tanker Amoco Cadiz off Brittany, France. In 1967, a tanker named Torrey Canyon off the English coast spilled thirty-eight million gallons. The tanker Metula in the Straits of Magellan, in 1973, was where sixteen million gallons of oil were spilled. As a result of these oil spills and others, there has been a considerable effort by government, academic and industry scientists to understand the fate and effects of petroleum in our Earth’s waters. One good piece of news that did occur was in 1985, when the National Research Council had reported that they didn’t find any evidence that proves that our oceans environments are threatened by the oil spills. Although, it is still a concern. Petroleum inputs from accidental oil spills were found to be less important contributors to the annual input of petroleum to the aquatic environment than chronic discharges from the urban runoff, industrial waste, and transportation activities. Petroleum, which we now know is one of our natural elements has been naturally discharging in our water in great amounts at many oil outflows around the world. Although, the aftermath of oil spills can be harsh, our natural environment produces effective natural processes that will recovery our environments of most of our oil spills (Alaska).

The BP Oil spill was due to an explosion of a rig in the Gulf. There were significant factors prior to the destruction of the drilling of the rig that should have been considered, which was a lack of risk management, at the time. It was a sad time in America from businesses to families and the economy in general. It was said that the incident was an “accident waiting to happen” (epa.bp). The engineers had identified seven fatal defects that led to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It was a series of errors that were made by people in critical situations involving complex technological and organization systems. Because of this, it created critical lessons that were learned. It has also given them insights on how to prevent this from happening in the future (epa.bp).

The incident lead to the improved risk assessments, and more beneficial regulatory oversight. It called for safer operating procedures and fast crisis response time. The accident was a detrimental and severe lesson learned. Eleven workers lost their lives and seventeen others were injured. The oil spill damaged the economy and environment of the entire Gulf Coast. The laws made changes that will reduce the chances of these tragedies occurring again. These regulation were put in place for both deep-water drilling and high technical and risky industries (oceanworld).

The Exxon Valdez leaked out almost eleven million gallons of oil in the pristine Prince William Sound. The oil spread to 1,300 miles of shoreline. The oil spill killed hundreds of thousands of aquatic and wildlife. The difference with the Gulf of Mexico spill is that the oil rig exploded and killed eleven of the workers and produced the largest oil spill in U.S. history. According to NOAA, an estimated two-hundred and ten thousand gallons of oil were leaking oil out of the remaining ruptures in a day. Eleven million gallons spilled by the Exxon Valdez in 1989 in June (greenlivingtips). Environmentalists are working on the long-term environmental impact reduction goals for the areas of energy conservation, resource conservation, and pollution prevention. As far as short term goals are concerned, environmentalists are working hard to advance the broader use of renewable sources of energy, while monitoring and maintaining the carbon footprint of the Earth in hopes that it will be at a minimum. We can’t completed eliminate all the bad elements in our atmosphere, but we can work together to minimize the issues of concern. A development of a hydraulic fracturing fracking technology is underway, in order to help them obtain accessibility to our natural gas that formerly found to be unreachable (mcclatchydc).

Since the BP oil spill, the Environmental Protection Agency has put orders in place that monitor air, water, sediment, and wastes that are produced by the cleaning processes. They will continue the continued response and renovation attempts as well. The government has put a main goal in place too restore and maintain our waters, while providing several causes of action that will be enforceable by the United States in order to promote the goals. For instance, civil and criminal penalties are put in place as provisions. The CWA has put civil penalty provisions associated with oil spills and this will provide that penalties recovered under the Clean Water Act must be deposited into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. Therefore funds will be available in the future or ensure that there are available funds for clean-up, response, and restoration efforts for future oil spills (epa.bp).


EarthDay is an important day to remember. It will be celebrated on April 22, 2014. This date is the anniversary of the environmental movement of 1970. Gaylord Nelson is the founder who came up with the idea. He was a US Senator in Wisconsin at the time. He witnessed an oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. In his eyes that oil spill was major issue and concern. He waited until an opportunistic time to voice his opinion on the incident. At the time Nelson was trying to find a way to get the news out, there had been a student anti-war movement taking place as well. That is when Mr. Nelson came up with the idea to stimulate the energy given about the war and emerge it with also making the public aware of the water and air pollution, in hopes that it would enforce protection for the environment, and it did. In the end, everyone came together to assist in the cause, and this action led to the four major changes; creation of the EPA and the passage of the Clean Water, Clean Air, and the Endangered Species Act (

On April 22, more than a million Americans performed a demonstration on the streets and parks, and held gatherings from the East coast to West coast. They were fighting for the cause, such as, against pollution from factories, power plants, toxic dumps and raw sewage, freeways, and pesticides and most of all the lost that it has caused to the wilderness. Needless to say, in the end he won.

Nelson and his followers worked hard to get the government’s attention to environmental issues, and when they did, it was the beginning of the environmental movement. The Environmental Protection Agency was formed on Dec.2, 1970. It was put in place to consolidate a variety of federal research, standard settings, and monitoring, and enforcement activities to ensure that the environment sustains protection for present and future generations The outcome is for Americans to have a cleaner and healthier environment (earthday).

The EPA work intensely to make sure everyone is complying to keep the environment clean and free from destruction, and holds those responsible if they are not complying. Because of Earthday, regulations in the Cleveland, Ohio area was forced to clean up the lakes and make sure that there is no hazardous and dangerous elements that can destroy our aquatic life, animals, and human life. Earthday protects our environment and promotes sustainability for our Earth for the future generations to come. It makes us accountable and responsible to keep our environment clean and safe for all living organisms (epa.earthday).

I can do my part of protecting our earth by going green. At home, I recycle and utilize bio-degradable products. I will not pollute our waters with pollutants, nor the land. At home I learned to use water, dawn dish detergent, and boiling water to break down cooking oils after cooking so the oils do not build up. At work, I can use less paper products and ride bus to work. During recreation time, I will make sure that I continue to use green products and keep our environment clean from trash and other things that may hurt our environment.


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