Who Cleans Up Oil Spillages In The UK?

Monday 1st February 2021

Sophie Rioch

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Two people in PPE during oil spill cleanup

If you require emergency oil spill cleaning services, contact us on 0208 066 0360.

Oil spills in the UK

Oil spills first became a major environmental problem in the 1960s as the result of intensified petroleum exploration.

One of the most notable oil spills in British history occurred in 1967. Known as the ‘Torrey Canyon disaster’, the incident saw 119,000 metric tons of crude oil plague European waters near Cornwall, England.

As technology has progressed, the frequency of oil spills demonstrates a clear downward trend. According to data by ITOPF, in the year 2020, the number of oil spills was less than the annual average recorded for the previous decade.

Nevertheless, oil spills do happen.

In the event of an oil spill, it’s important to realise its effect on the local environment and how to determine the responsible party.

Hazards associated with oil spills

In order to fully understand the risks associated with oil, we first have to ask the question: what is oil?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) describes oil as a broadly used term referring to a range of hydrocarbon-based substances. As the name suggests, hydrocarbon consists of the chemical elements hydrogen and carbon.

Examples of oil include:

  • Crude oil
  • Petroleum
  • Vegetable oil
  • Animal fats

The physical composition varies with each type of oil, meaning some oils pose greater risks than others. However, all types of oil share chemical and physical properties that produce similar effects on the environment.

In short, oil is a toxic pollutant which poses a range of threats to both human health and the environment. Whether the oil spillage has taken place on land or in the ocean, the consequences can be devastating.

Physical contact with the oil should be avoided at all times. Depending on the level of exposure, you may suffer a variety of respiratory problems, skin conditions, neurological effects and traumatic symptoms.

A recent study published by Amazon Frontlines revealed that symptoms can widely differ. Some individuals reported eye and skin irritation, whilst others reported dizziness and migraines.

Though there is a lack of knowledge surrounding the long-term effects of oil spills upon human health, there is sufficient evidence to cement the idea that adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) must be worn at all times by those dealing with the oil spill.

It’s no secret that oil is one of the UK’s main contributors of pollution. A heavy oil spill can be disastrous for both marine animals and wildlife on land. For example, an oil spill on land will likely contaminate any soil or plants it touches. This will prevent local animals from getting their usual food source, leading to starvation or organ defects.

In the sea, all affected water will be polluted and therefore unsuitable for drinking. The majority of oil spills that take place in our oceans contain toxins that are less dense than the surrounding water. As a result, the oil slick will float on the surface of the water.

This creates a range of hazards for surrounding marine creatures. For example, the oil slick can completely cover a bird’s wing as they dive into the ocean to feed, leaving them unable to fly away, or sea turtles may accidentally digest large amounts of oil, resulting in lung defects. Generally, oil spillages can significantly shorten the lifespan of marine animals.

The importance of urgency

To minimise the threat of environmental damage, it’s crucial to act quickly.

Wildlife cleaning, recovery and rehabilitation are essential parts of the oil spill response process, however, the longer the oil is left for, the more difficult this becomes.

Over time, physical transformations will make it increasingly challenging to contain the oil – whether in water or on dry land. Oil spreads quickly, creating a heavy blanket over all in its way.

For best results, you should deal with the situation within 24 hours of the incident. But whose responsibility is it to clean up the oil spillage?

Who is responsible?

According to NI Direct, the person, company or entity operating with the oil is responsible for making sure the substance is securely contained in a way that prevents spillages. In the event of an oil spill, they are liable for the damage caused to the environment.

Given that the average cost of cleaning up an oil spill is £30,000, oil spillages can place huge financial burdens on those involved. A single oil spill have long-term consequences for all parties involved, particularly if not covered by insurance.

If the nature of your company involves the use or transportation of oil, your insurance firm may appoint a specialist contractor. If your insurance policy does not cover oil spillages, it may be worth finding a local contractor. Get in touch with the International Spill Accreditation Association (ISAA) to find a local contractor.

Once the blame has been determined, the relevant party must organise the clean-up procedure. In most cases, such companies do not have the resources in place to deal with the spillage themselves, so turn to oil removal experts to assist with the oil removal process.

Companies that specialise in oil spillage cleaning will have access to the latest solutions, equipment and professional expertise necessary to complete the job. With years of experience in the field, they will be able to combat all hazards in a safe manner. Here at ICE Cleaning, we’re leading the way for industrial cleaning. Over the years, we’ve perfected our oil spill remediation service, and now offer an option like no other.

Get in touch

To find out more about our oil spillage clean up services, call us on 0208 066 0360 or email us on enquiries@icecleaning.co.uk today. A member of our dedicated customer support team will be able to provide professional advice regarding your personal situation.

Regardless of the extent of the oil spill, we guarantee a rapid, effective solution. We understand the importance of timing, therefore we have specialised technicians on-hand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, who can be on site in just 60 minutes.

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