How to clean up the oil spills Exxon Valdez environmental disasters – Environmental Ethics for Environmental Health Professionals
3.0 Strategies of clean up an oil spill
When the oil was spilled into the water body at seas, the most important aspect to clean is using the correct efficient technique. Generally, there are nine (9) ways of cleaning the oil spill occurred throughout the world. Some of this technique can be coupled with other modern technique and thus depends on the equipment availability and manpower.
- Using Oil Booms
Oil booms is a technique of capturing the oil spills using the characteristic of the oil in floating on the surface of the water. There are many kinds of boom suitable to contain the chemical when the spillage is taken place. After the oil boom deploys, the sum of oil can be extracted using skimmers or other mechanical equipment to remove it from the water body.
- Using Sorbents
Sorbent in general term like a sponge in absorbing oil to their surface areas. The use of sorbents has benefit in reducing the chances of the oil from remaining in the water body. However, this technique poses a challenge when the composition of the oil mix with the organic content which then leads to the insufficient surfactant areas to be absorbed efficiently by the sorbent media.
- Burning In-situ
The simpler technique for oil spill recovery and restoration was the burning in-situ. This technique proves to contain and limit the consequences of the oil-impacted zone towards the aquatic life and beaches. However, this technique can create the issues of air pollution and extremely not liable when dealing with the huge spill in complex location. The toxic gases emitted from the burning of this oil can further become secondary health issues for human and animals nearby impacted areas.
- Using dispensers
The dispenser was the technique utilized the mix of fertilizer to help the specific bacteria to 'eat' or digest the oil that spills in the water. This technique has proven to be the most efficient and less risk to marine and aquatic life. However, the use of dispenser will lead to unknown toxic effects for rare species of marine life and small animals, thus the strategy should be planned correctly.
Skimming is the mechanical process of extracting oil from the surface of the ocean/ water. The lighter characteristic of the oil making it possible to float and easier the process of skimming the oil residue on the water body.
- Using Hot water and a huge force
This method using the hot water to push the oil spilled back into the water and then the skimming process will help to do the rest. The issues of huge force and hot water are their mechanism can impact the fractional sizes of colonizing that important form small animals to grow. This deposition will then go after the cleaning was done and thus limit the habitat of the animal to colonize and maintain their species survivals.
- Using Manual labor
Manual labor can be one of the most important technique especially when involving many volunteers or community involvement. This includes the use of shovels and simple equipment to generally extract or remove the oil from the water and isolated it from the impacted areas.
- Using Technological aid
Using technology in this ideas was by utilizing heavy machinery. The sand and rocks that impacted by the oil spill can be removed and clean or extracted in the laboratory. This technique was costly and also can be damaging the natural habitat of the animals to survive.
- Using natural methods
In natural means, the oil will be carried away by wind or tides. The concentration of the oil will be reduced and the impact of the primary location will be distributed throughout the world. The particle and chemistry of the oil can be evaporated naturally after exposing to the sun and carried away by the wind. This is one of the techniques where the natural condition can 'dilute' the oil in the localized area. However, the challenge of this method due to the unpredictable condition of the weather and the rate was too slow without the proper elements of controls.
The simplest method of dealing with the oil spill clean-up operation is to make use of the components of nature like the sun, the wind, the weather and the tides. The particles of the oil spill, in due course of time, evaporate because of the constancy of these elements. This also forms the most cost-efficient and the slowest method of cleaning up oil spills.
3.1 Management of the post-oil spill and their impact in Alaska
After a decade of an oil spill in Prince William Sound, scientist develop and continuously monitored the habitat and biological composition after the Exxon Valdez disaster through the Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI). This mechanism helps environmental scientist to explore and map the tabulation of biological nature and their impact on the oil spill before and after the episode. Using the geospatial and temporal mapping technique, this ESI promising in providing sufficient data to estimates loss and severity of the oil spill occurrence in Exxon Valdes for example.
There are major negative and positive effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Relevant issues besides the animal and biological habitat was the economy through multiple sources of income to the community nearby. One of the issues related to the negative feedback will be the tourism industries. After the disaster, there are decreasing resident and non-resident vacation in term of the traffic flow in the affected areas such as Kodiak, Cordova, Home, and Valdez. This directly due to the visitor services that unavailable especially for accommodation, charter boats and air taxis (Mills, 1992). Majority of the investor was felt their business due to the impact of the oil spill. The clean-up chaos creates labor shortage in visitor industry due to traditional services industry workers seeking high – paying spill clean-up jobs. As result, the heritage and cost of doing business in visitor industries were left behind and outdated.
Many booking or cancelation and related planned and events throughout the Alaska areas near the impacted zone was canceled. This impact the fishing game and other tourist attraction mainly in Alaska community and visitors. All sightseeing areas and beaches were destroyed and not able to be sustained by the resorts. The impact from this declining visitor and lack of 'cleaner' areas contribute to the poor business economic flow of the visitor to Valdez and nearby areas. All these issues adding the severity of the Exxon Valdez impact in term of the summer vacation spending decreasing in the affected areas. Estimation over 5.5 million US dollars' worth of money was demolished due to the effect of the oil spill during that period and continuously for a decade (Azam & Hafeez, 2018; Preston, Thorgrimson, Shidler, Gates, & Ellis, 1990). Fishing lodge and marine activities were restricted and unable to provide sufficient quality habitat for fish and aquatic livestock. This issues led to poor catchment and bad perception of visitors to come to the nearby impacted areas.
Even there is much negative feedback due to the oil spill accident in Alaska by Exxon Valdez, another opportunity strike. Related business in spill-related recovery and major spill clean-up was booming in multiple areas, attracting more services such as boat renting, recreational vehicle and air taxis. Even the number of tourist and visitor decline, the use of the services in Alaska was dominated by the clean-up service industries. The image of Alaska becoming famous in bad shape (this contribute to equal negative and positive) for the perception of experts.
The figure, shown the situation timeline analysis related to the survival of species after the Exxon Valdez occurrence. Majority of the small animal survive towards the years. However, larger mammals or birds and special sensitive species was hardtop be found due to the changes in the environment. Some species also recorded for recovering period over the last few decades.
3.2 Ethical issue for spill response (effect after the clean-up of the oil spill)
After the accident related to the environmental disaster in Exxon Valdez accident, the Environmental Protection Agencies (US EPA), under the NOAA (Office Response and Restoration), there are significant chances and strategies that had been deploy to improve risk mitigation in the future. One of the related strategies was directly related to the oil spill clean-up. There are many lessons learn from the Exxon Valdez disaster which suggests the USEPA and NOAA limit the use of aggressive clean-up method such as hot-water washing that can severely impact the biological and natural habitat of the animal within communities (Langangen et al., 2017).
Beside that the use of water to flushing out the contaminant was proven to remove the tiny particle of nutrient that important for the small organism to successfully colonize. This permits their growth and taking time to redeposit for the small organism to function as a normal condition.
The adult animal that survives shown significant disruption an impaired of their reproductive biology. This lead to the poor survival of offspring and species sustainable within the community. Oil deposit within the sandy beach can relatively remain fresh and expose to the animal directly which later own cause toxic due to multiple reactions related to hydrocarbon reaction like Polyromantic hydrocarbon (PAH) that proven to be a carcinogen for animals (EVOSTC, n.d.).
During the extraction of oil in the beach and nearby shoreline, the use of heavy equipment such as excavator and bulldozers relatively ruin and damaging the solid foundation of the sand that become a natural habitat for certain small animals. With this issues, the general makeup of the shore and beach will be taken years to recover and become its natural presentation. The deep penetration of the clean-up making the weathering condition of the animal slower thus limited their deposition near the beach which lead to the un-survival nature of the animals.
4.0 Summary of the lesson that should be learned
Citation there are 14 suggested ideas to prevent Exxon Valdez disaster again.
- Limit the tank volume for the specific journey to carry the items. The journey must be made limited to identified journey to reduce any risk of accidents
- The zoning of the specific responses during the emergency must be efficient to reduce/ immediately take action towards any accidents.
- The specific role of accident commander to response for specific emergencies. This document treaty or understanding must be written.
- The need to maintain the diligent, motivation and focus on work. This related to occupational hazards management and duty & responsibility for specific jobs especially during critical condition (narrow channel/ during night/ bad weather)
- Joint – function body/ sensitivity element from the nearby coastal custody body (Coast Guard) to closely monitored and regular follow up for any big vessel passing through the sensitive areas/ near shore.
- Create a culture of prevention in term of managing the high-risk condition. This includes regular practices of the drill, and training, including all aspects, especially in the occupational safety and health issues.
- Improve the navigational systems and other maneuvering equipment for early detection, good spots of hazards avoidance and else.
- Improve the transatlantic transportation through a land mechanism in delivery the product to the continent from another continent. Even it's hard and expensive but the risk of endangering any accidents can be avoidance.
- Upgrading the regulation to ensure the absolute power of the state to control the transportation of the product
- The improvement majorly needed in the pilotage of the vessel. This includes the response from the state and federal department to equip officer in charge to help/ giving the way of providing efficient pilotage for the vessel (especially risky vessels).
- Design of the ship should be constructed or modified to suit the current risk that the vessels were carried. In this case, the double hull design should be used rather than simple single hull design
- Third mate officer in charge during the pilotage of the narrow channel was not sufficiently trained. This could be mitigated by proper simulated condition and special licensing for an officer in duty for pilotage the ships especially carrying the sensitive chemical loads.
- The team of managing the pilotage (in the ship we call Special Sea Duty – When approaching the hazardous situation, example during pilotage narrow channel) was not organized in a good manner. This was found from the poor management of the Exxon.
- Improvement of the coastal officer technology. In this case, the Coast Guard should be equipped by the high-end technology of radar-based detection or infrared capabilities, to spot any weird movement of the ships. Like the tower controlling the airplane in the airport.
- Improvement of the directive vessel officer should be carried out together with the proper automatic detection system by GPS to detect any deviation made by the officer in charge to ensure the vessels maintain its course.
- The improvement of the officer on duty to report any pressure given from the company was need to be created.
4.1 Malaysian oil transportation industries, how we need to improve?
Based on the Exxon Valdez tragedy, numbers of ideas and approach we can further enhance to promote better environmental protection in the events of development in Malaysia. The current knowledge that we can learn is divided into four general ideas namely authority and government agencies, engineering technology, research and development and alternative method development.
For the first argument in the authority and government agencies, Malaysian, should empower and making their regular activities beyond normal duties. The example of failure from the Coast Guard response towards the pilot aging the huge risky vessels remarks very important issues. The government agencies in Malaysia namely Agensi Penguatkuasaan Maritime Malaysia (APMM) and Jabatan Laut Malaysia (JLM) should be extended and proactively towards managing the risk of the vessels transporting the national ocean and coastal areas. The APMM and JLM should use sophisticated updated technology in monitoring and provide sufficient pilotage, especially on the risky vessels. Besides, the marine organization, ship, and transportation agencies should be taken into the serious assessment of risk management and contingency plan for using their vessel in Malaysia water territory.
In addition to that, the Ministry of Transport should be working not in a silo especially when involving in sharing coastal line, mutual understanding between national and international boundaries should be established and regular simulation and exercise should be conducted to prepare the officers and vessels toward the proper enforcement and guidance for private company especially in preventing oil spills in our country. Navigational support and proper hydrographic chart should be updated and shared to the vessels to immediately help the officers in maneuvering complex shoreline. Besides, the maritime school and related institution should emphasize good discipline when trained their officer cadets in piloting the vessels.
Second ideas were the engineering and technology development should be embedded in shipping design and the risk of handling hazardous agents should be placed as a priority. This includes the licensing and permission given for the huge vessel when traveling across the country. Engineers and ship designers should emphasize on the 'back – up' plan design especially involved in risky material transportation. This includes the oil tanker and related vessels. Clear navigational condition and updated version of early sign detection device should be in place for the complex huge risky vessels.
Beside that the ship design and engineers should work in hand with the maritime institute and related agencies, to provide a professional guide, new design, and affordable technology for the ship safety equipment especially in avoiding collision between ships and ground hazards during maneuvering. The autopilot and navigational equipment should be a link and able to be monitored by the authority similarly like the communication tower for the aircraft pilot should be implemented. If this component can be integrated, the events like Exxon Valdez can be prevented from happening again.
Third ideas for Malaysian to learn from the past is the implementation of continuous research and development for marine, shipping industries, and relevant oceanic studies. Based on the NOAA research, there are numbers of expertise already in place during the disaster of Exxon Valdez. The tidal study, biological studies, and many other related studies should be initiated by universities to help the engineers and users of the ship in transporting hazardous agents on the seas. Monitoring and continuous geological research should be conducted to help the navigator understand the pattern of the seabeds. Research on the oil spill technology should be tested and regularly prepared during the oil spill events. Holistic nature of risk assessment should be in place when conducting the oil spill management and contingency plan.
The fourth ideas for the Malaysian will be the use of the alternative method for energy. All of this issues arise because of the use of petroleum product and the bumming of the industrial era. If the crude oil needs can be adjusted and replace with cleaner and sustainable source of energy, perhaps the demands of the oil can be controlled, thus the product can be safely transported not in bulk. Petroleum product was the major source of energy for automobile and generating electrical power if this paradigm can be shifted, the needs for the transportation of this product can be limited thus, saving the ocean from their spillage.
In conclusion, oil spill tragedy like Exxon Valdez can be prevented if everyone plays their role seriously in understanding the need to respect the nature and environment. The government, private company, policymakers and ship operator need to improve their professionalism and care about the environment in order to appreciate the nature. Similar tragedy can be prevented with good efficient regulation, enforcement, technology-driven and professionalism in carrying out duties.
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