The Dangers of Oil Spills

When we think of oil spills, we tend to think of major ecological disasters, such as when tankers sink at sea, spreading their load over the ocean, inflicting serious damage on delicate ecosystems and wildlife habitats and smothering sea birds. But oil spills don’t have to be major events – minor spills happen every day, and if not treated quickly and effectively can still cause significant and long-lasting damage to our environment.

At AA Turner Tankers, one of the services we offer our clients is oil interceptor cleaning. Oil interceptors are used to prevent oil and petrol that can gather on the ground from entering the environment. They’re commonly found in commercial settings where there is regular vehicle traffic and maintenance.

The oil interceptor traps the oil that is washed off by water and separates the two, so that the water can be flushed away into the environment and the oil can be taken away and disposed of safely.

Using an oil interceptor on commercial premises is an ongoing responsibility, and it is a legal requirement for anyone operating one to get it regularly cleaned and maintained to ensure the risks of polluting the local environment are kept to a minimum.

Some businesses may make the decision to cut corners and costs by avoiding these responsibilities. That could lead to significant fines under environmental regulations such as the Water Pollution Act 1997 & 2000 or the Dangerous Substances Act 1972. But the risks to our environment and even our own health are much greater.

This month, we’re taking a look at some of the dangers that we can face as the result of an oil spill.

  • Wildlife

As mentioned earlier, one of the main things people picture when they think of oil spills is seabirds. But any creature with fur, fins or feathers that gets covered in oil will suffer badly as a result. Because oil floats on water, animals that use our rivers and streams, whether that be birds, fish, mammals or amphibians, will be badly affected. For mammals and birds, the oil will reduce their abilities to withstand the cold water – hypothermia is a common cause of death for these kinds of creatures affected by oil spills.

Meanwhile, smaller creatures at the bottom of the food chain can ingest the oil and in turn poison the larger creatures that predate on them. 

Other potentially fatal effects of oil on wildlife include blindness, organ failure, dehydration and the inability to smell anything other than the oil. 

  • Plants

Studies have suggested that oil kills plants, not necessarily by poisoning them, but instead by preventing their ability to absorb oxygen. Having said that, the toxic effects of the oil do also prevent plants photosynthesising, so the overall result is that by allowing oil to seep into the soil, you’ll be killing off whatever plants live there.

  • Drinking water

The supplies for our drinking water are sourced from rivers and streams, and oil can also negatively impact the way water treatment plants work, so when they get polluted by an oil spill our water can easily become unfit to drink. 

  • People

Not only is the pollution of our drinking water likely to be a major problem, but there are several other health hazards associated with exposure to oil, such as skin irritation. Even small amounts of oil in soil where vegetables are growing could mean that it enters the food chain; as exposure to oil is known to have the potential to cause cancer, breathing difficulties and other major complaints, this could also become a serious issue.

  • Your business

If your business is responsible for an oil spill that is not successfully cleared before any lasting damage is done, the long-term effects are likely to be extremely serious. Not only are you likely to be subject to substantial fines, but your reputation as a responsible business will be perhaps permanently harmed.

Even if you do manage to clear up the mess, the costs likely to be incurred are going to be significant – it’s really not worth taking the risk!

Here at AA Turner Tankers, we’re experts at helping to keep the environment in and around Colchester, Ipswich and Chelmsford clean and oil-free through services such as oil interceptor cleaning and waste collection. 

To find out more, get in touch with us now.