An oil spill is a disaster that can affect wildlife, human life and the economy. It happens when raw, natural petroleum hydrocarbons are released into the environment. The most common sources of these spills are tankers, pipelines, blow outs, and drilling rigs. In addition to the negative impact on wildlife, a spill can also cause health problems.
Oil is an organic, sticky substance composed of gas, crude oil and residuals. Because of the composition of this liquid, it can be toxic to humans and other living things. This makes it important to take preventive measures to avoid an oil spill.
When spilled, oil can contaminate water supplies and groundwater. In addition to causing respiratory problems, oil in drinking water can increase the risk of cancer. Also, oil-consuming bacteria are commonly found in ecosystems. These bacteria digest the oil and replace the populations of other organisms in the food chain.
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which occurred in the Gulf of Mexico a decade ago, was one of the largest in history. The incident caused widespread damage to the marine environment, including the death of thousands of sea turtles. Seaside residents reported that dead turtles were washing up on their beaches every day long after the spill. Although the spill did not cause severe harm to people, it did impair the ability of the region’s economy to generate capital.
The effects of an oil spill are varied, depending on the location and the chemical composition of the oil. Animals, birds, plants and even the soil can be affected. Some species are prone to suffering from oil-related diseases and can die as a result of the poison. Other animals will lose their reproductive ability.
A spill’s impact on the surrounding environment depends on a variety of factors, including the nature of the location, the size of the spill, and the time and effort that is devoted to cleaning the mess. Depending on the nature of the area, the damage to the environment can take years to heal.
If a spill occurs near a waterway or shoreline, it will have a larger effect on local animals and the surrounding environment than a spill that happens at sea. For example, an oil spill that occurs in a river or stream can contaminate the soil, making it useless for agriculture. On the other hand, an oil spill that occurs at sea can reduce the amount of dissolved oxygen, which inhibits the growth of seafloor plants.
While the damage caused by an oil spill can be immense, a large majority of spills are small. In fact, most of the marine spills that occur in the United States are less than six gallons in size. However, an individual spill of this size is still an ecological concern.
As with any disaster, it is essential to have an oil spill response organization in place. With funding, qualified responders and access to environmental data, these organizations can help mitigate the impact of an oil spill.