State University of New York Institute of Technology
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Oil Spills (7)

What is an oil spill?

     Oil spills happen when people make mistakes or are careless and cause an oil tanker to leak oil into the ocean. There are a few more ways an oil spill can occur. Equipment breaking down may cause an oil spill. If the equipment breaks down, the tanker may get stuck on shallow land. When they start to drive the tanker again, they can put a hole in the tanker causing it to leak oil.

-When countries are at war, one country may decide to dump gallons of oil into the other country’s oceans.

-Terrorists may cause an oil spill because they will dump oil into a country’s ocean. Many terrorists will do this because they are trying to get the country’s attention, or they are trying to make a point to a country.

-*Natural disasters (like hurricanes) may cause an oil spill, too. If a hurricane was a couple of miles away, the winds from the hurricane could cause the oil tanker to flip over, pouring oil out.

Oil Spill Behavior

When oil is spilled in the ocean, it initially spreads in the water (primarily on the surface), depending on its relative density and composition. The oil slick formed may remain cohesive, or may break up in the case of rough seas. Waves, water currents, and wind force the oil slick to drift over large areas, impacting the open ocean, coastal areas, and marine and terrestrial habitats in the path of the drift.

 

DAMAGES

Oil spills present the potential for enormous harm to deep ocean and coastal fishing and fisheries. The immediate effects of toxic and smothering oil waste may be mass mortality and contamination of fish and other food species, but long-term ecological effects may be worse. Oil waste poisons the sensitive marine and coastal organic substrate, interrupting the food chain on which fish and sea creatures depend, and on which their reproductive success is based. Commercial fishing enterprises may be affected permanently.  


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