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Oil Pollution

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What is Oil Pollution?

Pollution of every kind is harmful to nature. Oil pollution in particular is a kind of water pollution, and a dangerous one at that. Oil does not dissolve in water and hence oil usually floats on the surface of water. Thus, oil pollution due to any cause greatly affects the quality of natural water bodies and is classified under pollution.

Oil pollution is most common in large water bodies like seas and oceans. Oil spill occurs due to the release of a liquid petroleum hydrocarbon into the aquatic environment. Marine water is especially affected by this form of pollution. Oil pollution is primarily a man-made pollution and is a result of human irresponsible activities.


Causes of Oil Pollution:-

Breakage of oil tankers (oil ships):- Mechanical breakage of oil tankers can lead to oil spillage in extremely large quantities. When bunker oil or lubricating oil (required for engines) is being loaded in to any ship, the loading hose can also undergo mechanical breakage leading to oil spillage incidents.

Oil pipe leakage:-Oil pipe leakages are common and cause a lot of oil pollution. Huge pipelines are laid all across the world and their slightest leakage can prove to of grave danger to water bodies.

Drilling activities:-Drilling activities lead to severe oil pollution. Industries after oil extractions dump the drilling wastes into water bodies. This is extremely detrimental for natural water sources.

Human transport or recreational activities:-Oil spills may be a result of water sports as well as motor transport on water. Fuel leaks from jet skis, speed boats, etc. can also lead to oil spills.

Unskilled Manpower:-Unprofessional, careless and unskilled man-power can also be a risk factor for oil pollution. They might do a clumsy job of loading or unloading the crude oil cargo which may prove to be dangerous.

Natural causes beyond human control:-Natural calamities like storms and tsunamis have also lead to many oil spillage and ship accidents. This is beyond human control and cause maximum damage to marine water. Climatic conditions are something that cannot be bypassed when talking about marine life.


Effects of Oil Pollution:-

Damage to ecosystem:-Oil pollution is a major threat to our ecosystem, especially the aquatic ecosystem. Ecological impact of oil spills on the aquatic animals depends on the location of the oil spills and also on the sensitivity of the local organisms to oil pollution. This leads to the consequent shrinkage of the local prey population thus unbalancing the aquatic food chain and ecosystem. Plants in the water also cannot survive in poisonous oily environment and die a pre mature death, ahead of their life cycles.

Economic loss:-Oil spillage if happens in high concentrations is very difficult to clean, no matter how much effort is invested into it. Also, the cleanliness regime is anything but cheap. Huge amount of money need to be spent to tidy up the oil spillage mess and then also the result may not be 100% satisfactory. Oil pollution is proportional to considerable economic loss. Also, spillage of crude oil is of great loss as crude oil is precious and very expensive.

Altering the water temperature:-The oil layer present at the surface of water will tend to absorb more heat from sun rays and may significantly increase the surface water temperature. Also, it might block the sunlight from reaching into the depths of water with uneven heat distribution across the depths of the water body. This can alter the natural hydrodynamics of the water bodies which may lead to lesser oxygen supply at certain depths of water.

Effect on coastal areas:-The shore lines and sandy beaches in coastal areas may also be an indirect victim of oil water pollution. The oil contaminated water is usually swept across the shoreline by the waves in high tides. This makes the beaches dirty and unsafe for the human population as well. Thus, coastal areas are continuously contaminated due to oil pollution.

Degrades water quality:-Oil pollution seriously degrades the water quality on a long-term basis. Being insoluble in water, oily water always exists as bi-layer.

Industry problems:-Many industries use clean water from natural water bodies for cooling purposes. Industries like power plants, nuclear plants and desalination plants need constant water supply from surface waters. These industries may also pose a risk of getting oily and contaminated water due to oil pollution. This may lead to contamination in their pipes and might not yield effective cleaning too.


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Oil Pollution prevention, monitoring and solution:-

Use of Trained people:-Drilling should only be done by highly skilled and trained people. This will prevent the otherwise unwanted oil pollution.

Efficient Disaster Management Plan:-Government of all countries worldwide should treat oil pollution seriously and come up with a suitable disaster management plan to deal with this problem. Local environmental agencies should also step up their action plans towards the recovery of polluted water bodies.

Bioremediation:-When bacteria are used to clean up oil spills in the marine environment, it is termed as bioremediation. Bioremediation is a process that uses natural decomposers and plant enzymes to treat the contaminated water. Certain specific bacteria come of use when thinking of bioremediation of hydrocarbons present in oil and gasoline.

Laws and Regulations:-Several laws and regulations have been operational since long in most of the countries, but still oil pollution has been on the rise. The laws should be implemented on ground level and facilities should be checked regularly for proper maintenance and documentation of their procedures for discharge as well as loading. Also, mock drills should be mandatory for all vessels, so as to be prepared to clean up oil spills in emergency situations.

Chemical treatment:-The oil spills in the water bodies can be cleaned up the chemical way. Using sorbents (big sponges which absorb oil) oil spills can be cleaned. Also, chemical dispersants effectively break down oil into its corresponding chemical constituents.


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