The Coast Guard and EPA are responsible for cleaning oil spills. The method of clean up depends on how fast the crew can reach the spill along with other natural factors (current, waves, weather, etc). When an oil spill occurs, the oil forms a millimeter-thick slick that floats on the water which then spreads and thins out across portions of our oceans.
According to “how stuff works”, “If a crew can reach a spill within an hour or two, it may choose containment and skimming to clean up the slick. Long, buoyant booms which float on the water and a skirt that hangs below the water contain the slick and keep the oil from spreading out. This makes it easier to skim oil from the surface, using boats that suck or scoop the oil from the water and into containment tanks. A slick like this may also call for sorbents — large sponges that absorb the oil from the water. Cleanup crews may set the oil on fire in a process called in situ burning, but this produces toxic smoke, and probably wouldn’t be used in a spill near coastal settlements.”
One of the main things to remember is that no two oil spills are the same because of the variation in oil types , locations, and weather conditions involved. Broadly speaking, there are four main methods of response.
1. Leave the oil alone so that it breaks down by natural means. If there is no chance of it polluting the coastal regions or marine industries, the best method is to leave it to disperse by natural means. Wind, sun, current and wave action will rapidly disperse and evaporate most oils.
2. Contain the spill with booms and collect it from the water surface using skimmer equipment. You can use certain booms to surround and isolate the slick, or to block the passage of a slick to vulnerable areas.
3. Use dispersants to break up the oil and speed its natural biodegradation.
4. Introduce biological agents to the spill to hasten biodegradation
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