You may have heard a news report or two of a tanker loosing oil so it spilled out into the waterways. This is known as oil pollution or a form of marine pollution. These events gain national attention for awhile, but then we forget until the next time. In between these catastrophes, there is everyday damage being done to our waterways and beach fronts that is the result of oil pollution and oil by-product pollution.
What Is Oil Pollution?
Oil pollutants or an oil spill is when a liquid petroleum hydrocarbon is released into the environment, usually due to human activity. This term is usually linked with oil that is released within our oceans or coastal waters. The oil can be in the form of crude oil, petroleum products (gasoline or diesel), by-products, oily refuse, or oil mixed in waste. Sometimes oil is released into our environment from geologic seeps that occur naturally on the ocean floor.
How Does It Happen?
Most of the human-based incidents of oil pollution start on land. There are many industries that line our coastal waterways that illegally dump wastes and oil-based products into the environment. Some are dumped directly into the water and others are improperly buried into faulty tanks which will seep into the ground and eventually end up in the ground water, which will seep into the waterways or become part of the runoff that will find its way to the ocean.
Others come in the form of accidents on the water. Large tankers may collide with other ships causing damage to the holding facilities and the oil or oil product will pour directly into the water. Drilling facilities with faulty equipment or practices have accidents all the time and their inability to cap the leak will cause tons of oil to be released. In wartime, Insurgents have purposely opened up valves of oil and oil products into the water, so a diversion is caused to aid attacks.
Who Is Affected?
The damage of oil pollution is not limited to the water being dirty. There are millions of organisms that call the water and the coast their home. Some spills can be cleaned up without lasting damage; however most change the course of events forever. Some of the affected often include:
Fowl The birds feathers are greatly damaged by oil, which reduces its ability to insulate. This makes them more vulnerable to temperature change and less buoyant in the water. Their flight ability is difficult, so they are less likely to escape from predators or hunt for their needed food supply. Their natural instinct is to try to clean the foreign matter off, but in doing so they ingest the oil product thus damaging their internal organs, which will cause for major dehydration and metabolic imbalances. Most fowl species will die without human intervention.
Marine mammals Most of these mammals are affected like the sea birds. The oil coats their fur, reducing their insulation, also causing for temperature vulnerability. Also, eating tainted fish will cause for digestive issues and may result in death.
Humans Our waterways provide food and large spills will shut down the fishing industries of that area. Unemployment of fishing industry workers, the cost of food, our beaches and the industry that surrounds them, etc.
Oil pollution touches so many aspects of our lives and those who live around us. It is important to prevent such disasters, so that we may offer cleaner waters for our future generations.