Oil spills create many problems throughout the world, including the United States. The impact on the ecosystem in an area can be severe. Many plants and animals suffer or are killed within a short time after the spill occurs. Many people spend their time and money cleaning up the oil. Scientists also spend their time and the government's money trying to find different types of technology or methods that clean up oil spills. This creates a major impact on the United States economy. Come and learn about the damage that oil spills can cause.
Why We Picked This Topic
We picked oil spills because we were really concerned about the affect that it was having on the environment. We felt that the animals around the world should not have to suffer because of our careless mistakes. Oil spills can affect the animals and the vegetation that their life is based on, as well as the United States economy. Peoples' jobs and lives can be affected by the damage of the oil. For example, about 3.9 million tons of oil are split into the unexpecting oceans every year. This large amount of oil can be very harmful and dangerous to our county's water system and it's inhabitants.
We want to know about the efficient cleaning methods and what is being done to improve them. We also want to learn more about this field of science because we would like to look into it for future careers. Finding new ways to clean up oil spills so that the oceans look crystal clean. We think that clean oceans is just as important as finding a cure for cancer or AIDS. Other people may not be interested in this field but we sure are.
How Oil Spills Affect Different Locations
Oil spills can occur anywhere, whether oil is being shipped across bodies of water, or driven on land. The most common location of spilt oil is in a body of water where many things can go wrong. Tankers can collide or run ashore, pipelines can break, or there can be a problem transferring oil from one ship to another. Sometimes small spills occur, which are usually just dealt with the people in charge. Large oil spills might involve assistance from the government to clean up the mess.
One large, well-known oil spill is the Exxon Valdez spill, which occurred on March 24, 1989. In all, about 11 million gallons of oil were spilt into Prince William Sound, Alaska. It is thought of as the worst oil spill in the United States and ranks 27th in the world as the worst oil spill. It occurred because of human error when Captain Joseph Hazelwood had a few alcholic beverages before they left port. Hazelwood told one of his officers who was inexperienced with this vessel to take charge of he wheel through a dangerous part. While the officer was trying to watch for floating ice blocks, he was unaware that the ship was too close to Bligh Reef, that they were supposed to avoid. He tried turning once he realized their position, but it was too late. The Exxon Valdez had scraped against Bligh Reef, with oil leaking from it at 12:04 a.m.
The Exxon Valdez
The cleanup crews reached the spill twelve hours after the ship had run aground. By then, the oil had spread, so it covered several square miles and the damage was very severe. Many plants and animals died from the oil, endangered especially bald eagles, sea otters, and seabirds. Rescuers estimated that over half of the sea otters in the Sound had been killed. Over one hundred bald eagles and over 36,000 sea birds had been killed. The oil disrupted the food chain because other animals that had not been killed might have eaten contaminated food, such as plants and and other animals. Thousands of people spent time and money cleaning up. So far, Exxon has spent over two billion dollars cleaning up.
The Argo Merchant ran aground on December 15, 1976 in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, near Nantucket. The cause of it is unknown but when it ran aground, it was twenty-five miles off course. The captain and crew told different stories, but finally, the captain said the cause of the crash was the inexperienced helmsman. The ship was stranded on Nantucket Shoals for six days, until strong winds and ocean currents broke the ship in half, letting 7.6 million gallons of oil into Nantucket Sound. It created an oil slick 130 miles long and 30 miles wide. Strong ocean currents carried most of the oil out to the ocean, instead of near the shoreline where the damage could have been as severe as the result of the Exxon Valdez spill.
The Argo Merchant
Affects on the People
There are many ways that oil spills affect people. They harms both the earth's ecosystem and the economy. The cleaning up of oil spills is a tremendous job. People put lots of time and effort into making the water that cover 75% of our planet-oil-spill-free. As you can imagine, oil spills can put a lot of stress on people, which could then lead to accidents. This could cause loss of money or even a job. Also taxes could go up in the area, so the government can clean up the oil. Fishermen would be out of jobs, too, because the fish would be contaminated and some of the people might depend on that fish.
When an oil spill occurs, many fish and sea life die, which affects the fishing industry. Many fishermen can not sell their fish, so therefore their businesses suffer. The profit of their business can greatly affect their family's and town's lives. This was what happened in the Exxon Valdez spill. Many people put a lot of effort into cleaning up some of the oil. Over 11,000 people volunteered to pick up and prevent greater damage. The one and only good thing that the people get out of cleaning up an oil spill is learning from their mistakes.. They also can learn how to improve the modern technologies, so as we move into the 21st century we can make important advancements in technology.
Effect on the Economy
When oil is spilt in the United States, the government sometimes has to spend money to clean it up. Each year, the U.S. government spends over one million dollars cleaning up oil spills. If there is a minor oil spill, the people in charge usually pay for it because it can be cleaned up easier. But if there is a large one, the government helps pay for some of the damage or the use of different technologies. The oil can also affect the amount of tourists in that area. Many areas heavily rely on support from their tourism industry, so if an oil spill occurred in that area, they would suffer economically. This is just one of the many ways that oil spills can affect the economy.
Another example would be what happened during the Exxon Valdez spill in Prince William Sound in 1989. Prince William Sound had an abundant supply of fish and other types of marine life that supported the economy of the state and towns surrounding it. When the spill occurred, thousands of fish and other sea life were killed. Fishers in the area were in trouble because most of the fish were either dead or contaminated with oil. They couldn't sell them if they were found near the oil because they might be contaminated and the people who eat it could get sick. These are the two major effects that oil spills can have on the economy.
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