What Is An Environmental Oil Spill?

Monday 18th March 2024

Ellen Warren

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Ground pollution by oil spill

CONTENTS

When an oil spill occurs in an area where it contaminates soil or enters a body of water, it is imperative to act quickly to prevent long-term damage. Whether a spill occurs at home or on a work site, it must be contained immediately.

At ICE Cleaning, our oil spill clean-up services cover various oil types and circumstances. Our team utilise the latest technology and solutions to neutralise oil contaminants, cleaning oil from the area safely and effectively.

Read on to learn more about environmental spills and how to prevent them.

What is an environmental oil spill?

An environmental oil spill refers to the accidental release of petroleum-based products into the environment, which occurs on land or in water bodies. 

These spills are a concern due to their potential for extensive environmental damage and negative impacts on human health. They can stem from various sources, including tanker accidents, pipeline ruptures, drilling operations, and industrial leaks.

For humans living close to affected areas, exposure could lead to respiratory problems, skin irritation, and other health conditions depending upon the level and duration of exposure. 

What causes oil spills?

Identifying the causes of these disasters is essential for prevention and effective response. Oil spills can result from natural disasters or human errors and have significant environmental consequences. This includes:

  • Pipeline leaks
  • Tanker accidents
  • Spills during transport
  • Old or damaged oil tanks
  • Severe weather conditions 
  • Poor storage practices

How does an oil spill affect the environment?

The aftermath of an environmental oil spill is both immediate and enduring, damaging marine life, birds, terrestrial ecosystems, and local communities long-term.

Impact on marine life

When oil leaks into water bodies, it forms a thick layer on the surface that can suffocate fish by blocking oxygen exchange. It can affect plankton populations — key components in the aquatic food chain — leading to disruptions across entire marine ecosystems.

Affecting bird populations

Birds encountering spilt oil suffer greatly; their feathers become coated with the oil, reducing insulation and buoyancy, resulting in hypothermia or drowning. The ingestion of oil while preening also introduces harmful substances into their system, causing internal damage or death. 

Influence on terrestrial ecosystems

Spilt oil contaminates soil profiles, disrupting plant life and affecting local wildlife dependent on these plants. Contamination can linger for years, decreasing plant growth and reducing biodiversity within these areas.

How to respond to an oil spill

When an oil spill occurs, you must respond appropriately to protect your home and the environment. Below are steps you should take immediately upon discovering an oil spill on your property.

Contain the spill safely

Your first action should be trying to contain the spill without putting yourself or others at risk. Use absorbent materials like sand or cat litter around the perimeter of the spill if possible. 

This will help prevent further spread into surrounding areas or water sources, which could exacerbate environmental damage. Do not attempt any containment measures if they pose any risk to you.

Contact professional cleaning services immediately

Cleaning up an oil spill requires expertise and specialised equipment, not DIY solutions. As soon as you have contained the initial spread as best as possible, contact an oil spill cleaning company like ICE Cleaning. 

Our team has extensive experience dealing with various spill types while adhering strictly to environmental regulations, ensuring minimal impact on your property and nature.

Inform your insurance company

Lastly, inform your insurance provider about the incident promptly. Depending on your policy terms, costs for cleaning efforts may be covered, providing significant financial relief during this stressful time.

How to prevent an oil spill

When maintaining a safe and clean environment, preventing oil spills is integral. Whether it is maintaining your domestic heating oil tank at home or ensuring workplace safety, taking proactive steps can significantly mitigate risks:

  • Maintain your heating oil tank regularly: Regular maintenance is crucial if your property uses heating oil tanks. Inspect your tank periodically for signs of wear and tear, such as rusting or cracks.
  • Implement secondary containment systems: In domestic settings and workplaces with large volumes of oils or chemicals, secondary containment systems provide an essential safety net. Options include bunds constructed around tanks or double-walled tanks.
  • Educate on proper handling procedures: Educating everyone involved in oil safety procedures is vital for spill prevention. This includes training on filling operations, transfer processes and emergency response actions in case of accidental releases.
  • Promptly address small leaks and spills: At the first sign of any leak from your heating oil tank or workplace storage containers, act immediately by containing the spill and contacting oil cleaning specialists.

Frequently asked questions

What is environmental oil spillage?

It's when harmful substances, like oil or chemicals, leak into the environment. This can wreak havoc on ecosystems.

What is the definition of an oil spill?

A spill refers to oil leaking into environments, such as oceans, rivers, and soil, due to accidents or negligence.

What is an example of an oil spill?

A common example of an oil spill is a domestic heating oil tank leaking due to age or poor maintenance.

Get in touch

For oil spill cleaning services, you can rely on our emergency cleaning team at ICE Cleaning. We utilise the latest technology and techniques to ensure that any environmental oil spills are cleaned quickly and effectively, neutralising toxic components.

To learn more about our oil remediation services, contact us at 0208 066 0360 or enquiries@icecleaning.co.uk. We operate nationwide and work around the clock, ensuring you receive 24/7 support all year round, even in an emergency.

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