Oil Spills

Jan 19th, 2011 | By | Category: Youth Blog

How do oil spills affect the environment ?

Oil spills affect water in many ways. When oil is released into water, it doesn’t blend in. Oil floats on the surface of salt and fresh water. Over a small period of time, the oil is spread into a very thin layer across the surface of the water. This layer, called a slick, enlarges until the oil layer is extremely thin. The oil severely affects the marine life in the ocean. Animals ingest the oil and are immediately poisoned. Even if the animal is far away from the spill, they may consume a fish that was affected by the oil, and therefore be poisoned. If the animal eats oil-saturated food, their reproduction cycle is affected. There is a possibility of mutations in the offspring and the oil will continue to affect the species for generations to come.
Back in 1989, the Exxon-Valdez oil spill leaked out the equivalent of 125 Olympic swimming pools. On April 20th, in the Gulf of Mexico, another oil spill occurred due to a deadly offshore drilling rig explosion. 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana, this oil spill is now threatening the coastline. Over 1.6 million gallons of oil have already leaked into the ocean and each day, 42,000 more gallons enter the water. The spill is currently 130 miles long and 70 miles wide and may hurt hundreds of species of wildlife. This area affected by the oil spill supplies the nation with 1/3 of our seafood. The shrimp will probably migrate but the microbes that they eat will be contaminated by the oil. The coast may never again be clean enough for the shrimp to come back to their previous habitat and abundance. If the spill reaches the Louisiana coast, environmental damage will be maximized. Oil sticks to everything and all signs of life on the coast would be permanently damaged. Once oil touches the land, its even harder to clean up. Although 21 years have passed since the Exxon-Valdez spill, oil can still be found on the beaches of Alaska. For more information, go to http://www.epa.gov/bpspill/.

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