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Course Coordinator

D. DINU

Course:
<<MARINE POLLUTION I>>

Student:
Ana Maria Stan

Marine Spills and Environmental


Impact
Marine Spills
Fate of Oil Spills
o Weathering Process
o Persistence of Oil
o Models
Effects of Oil Spills
o Environmental Impact
o Recovery
o Economic Impacts
About Vegetable Oil Spills
About HNS

Marine Spills
Recognition of spilt oil at sea or on the
shoreline may be the first indication of an oil
spill. Depending on the quantity and type of
oil involved, a clean-up response may have to
be organised for removing the oil and
protecting sensitive areas nearby.
The fate of spilt oil depends on a number of
factors, such as the amount of oil spilled; its
initial physical and chemical characteristics;
the prevailing weather and sea conditions; and whether the oil remains at
sea or comes ashore.
Once spilled at sea, the natural tendency for the oil will be to spread,
break up and become dissipated over time. This dissipation is a result of a
number of chemical and physical processes acting on the spilt oil. These
processes are collectively referred to as weathering.
In considering the fate of spilled oil at sea and potential clean-up and
response techniques, the persistence of the oil in the environment should
be taken into account.
A variety of models exist which may be used to aid in decision making
processes and forecasting the likely locations the oil may strand. Models

can be used at a contingency planning stage, allowing stakeholders to


envisage a variety of scenarios and their likely outcome, as well as during
a real-time spill to aid clean-up and response decisions.
The effect of oil spills can be far reaching, posing both an environmental
and economic threat. Recreational activities, local industry, fisheries, and
marine life are among the resources that can be adversely affected by oil
spills.
The recovery of the environment after a spill depends on a variety of
factors such as the type and amount of oil spilled; the biological and
physical characteristics of the affected area; time of year and weather
conditions, and notably the clean-up and response strategy used. Typical
environmental impacts range from toxicity to smothering effects.
Spills of chemicals and other Hazardous and Noxious Substances (HNS)
may also present a threat to the environment. The behaviour and fate of
spilled HNS will depend on its chemical and physical properties. Its impact
will also vary according to local conditions.

Fate of Oil Spills


Oil is a general term used to denote petroleum products which mainly
consist of hydrocarbons. Crude oils are made up of a wide spectrum of
hydrocarbons ranging from very volatile, light materials such as propane
and benzene to more complex heavy compounds such as bitumens,
asphaltenes, resins and waxes. Refined products such as petrol or fuel oil
are composed of smaller and more specific ranges of these hydrocarbons.
Oil, when spilled at sea, will normally break
up and be dissipated or scattered into the
marine environment over time. This
dissipation is a result of a number of
chemical and physical processes that change
the compounds that make up oil when it is
spilled. The processes are collectively known
as weathering. Oils weather in different
ways. Some of the processes, like natural
dispersion of the oil into the water, cause
part of the oil to leave the sea surface, whilst others, like evaporation or
the formation of water in oil emulsions, cause the oil that remains on the
surface to become more persistent.
The way in which an oil slick breaks up and dissipates depends largely on
how persistent the oil is. Light products such as kerosene tend to
evaporate and dissipate quickly and naturally and rarely need cleaning-up.
These are called non-persistent oils. In contrast, persistent oils, such as
many crude oils, break up and dissipate more slowly and usually require a
clean-up response. Physical properties such as the density, viscosity and
pour point of the oil all affect its behaviour.
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Dissipation does not occur immediately. The time this takes depends on a
series of factors, including the amount and type of oil spilled, the weather
conditions and whether the oil stays at sea or is washed ashore.
Sometimes, the process is quick and on other occasions it can be slow,
especially in sheltered and calm areas of water.
A number of models are available for predicting the trajectory and
dispersion of oil spills at sea. These can serve as a useful guide to
understanding how a particular oil is likely to behave and help in assessing
the scale of the problem which a spill might generate.

Weathering Process
Most of the weathering processes, such as evaporation, dispersion,
dissolution and sedimentation, lead to the disappearance of oil from the
surface of the sea, whereas others, particularly the formation of water-inoil emulsions ("mousse") and the accompanying increase in viscosity,
promote its persistence. The speed and relative importance of the
processes depend on factors such as the quantity and type of oil, the
prevailing weather and sea conditions, and whether the oil remains at sea
or is washed ashore. Ultimately, the marine environment assimilates
spilled oil through the long-term process of biodegradation.
The eight main processes that cause an oil to weather are described below
and summarised in the following diagram.

Figure 1: Fate of oil spilled at sea showing the main weathering processes

Spreading
As soon as oil is spilled, it starts to spread out
over the sea surface, initially as a single slick.
The speed at which this takes place depends
to a great extent upon the viscosity of the oil.
Fluid, low viscosity oils spread more quickly
than those with a high viscosity. Nevertheless,
slicks quickly spread to cover extensive areas
of the sea surface. Spreading is rarely uniform
and large variations in the thickness of the oil
are typical. After a few hours the slick will
begin to break up and, because of winds,
wave action and water turbulence, will then form narrow bands or
windrows parallel to the wind direction. The rate at which the oil spreads is
also determined by the prevailing conditions such as temperature, water
currents, tidal streams and wind speeds. The more severe the conditions,
the more rapid the spreading and breaking up of the oil.

Evaporation
Lighter components of the oil will evaporate to the atmosphere. The
amount of evaporation and the speed at which it occurs depend upon the
volatility of the oil. An oil with a large percentage of light and volatile
compounds will evaporate more than one with a larger amount of heavier
compounds. For example, petrol, kerosene and diesel oils, all light
products, tend to evaporate almost completely in a few days whilst little
evaporation will occur from a heavy fuel oil. In general, in temperate
conditions, those components of the oil with a boiling point under 200C
tend to evaporate within the first 24 hours. Evaporation can increase as
the oil spreads, due to the increased surface area of the slick. Rougher
seas, high wind speeds and high temperatures also tend to increase the
rate of evaporation and the proportion of an oil lost by this process.

Dispersion
Waves and turbulence at the sea surface can cause all or part of a slick to
break up into fragments and droplets of varying sizes. These become
mixed into the upper levels of the water column. Some of the smaller
droplets will remain suspended in the sea water while the larger ones will
tend to rise back to the surface, where they may either coalesce with
other droplets to reform a slick or spread out to form a very thin film. The
oil that remains suspended in the water has a greater surface area than
before dispersion occurred. This encourages other natural processes such
as dissolution, biodegradation and sedimentation to occur.
The speed at which an oil disperses is largely dependent upon the nature
of the oil and the sea state, and occurs most quickly if the oil is light and
of low viscosity and if the sea is very rough. These factors led to the
complete dispersion of the oil spilled from the BRAER (Shetland Islands,
United Kingdom, 1993).
The addition of chemical dispersants can accelerate this process of natural
dispersion.

Emulsification
An emulsion is formed when two liquids
combine, with one ending up suspended in the
other. Emulsification of crude oils refers to the
process whereby sea water droplets become
suspended in the oil. This occurs by physical
mixing promoted by turbulence at the sea
surface. The emulsion thus formed is usually
very viscous and more persistent than the
original oil and is often referred to as chocolate
mousse because of its appearance. The formation of these emulsions
causes the volume of pollutant to increase between three and four times.
This slows and delays other processes which would allow the oil to
dissipate.
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Oils with an asphaltene content greater than 0.5% tend to form stable
emulsions which may persist for many months after the initial spill has
occurred. Those oils containing a lower percentage of asphaltenes are less
likely to form emulsions and are more likely to disperse. Emulsions may
separate into oil and water again if heated by sunlight under calm
conditions or when stranded on shorelines.

Dissolution
Water soluble compounds in an oil may dissolve into the surrounding
water. This depends on the composition and state of the oil, and occurs
most quickly when the oil is finely dispersed in the water column.
Components that are most soluble in sea water are the light aromatic
hydrocarbons compounds such as benzene and toluene. However, these
compounds are also those first to be lost through evaporation, a process
which is 10 -100 times faster than dissolution. Oil contains only small
amounts of these compounds making dissolution one of the less important
processes.

Oxidation
Oils react chemically with oxygen either breaking down into soluble
products or forming persistent compounds called tars. This process is
promoted by sunlight and the extent to which it occurs depends on the
type of oil and the form in which it is exposed to sunlight. However, this
process is very slow and even in strong sunlight, thin films of oil break
down at no more than 0.1% per day. The formation of tars is caused by the
oxidation of thick layers of high viscosity oils or emulsions. This process
forms an outer protective coating of heavy compounds that results in the
increased persistence of the oil as a whole. Tarballs, which are often found
on shorelines and have a solid outer crust surrounding a softer, less
weathered interior, are a typical example of this process.

Sedimentation/Sinking
Some heavy refined products have densities
greater than one and so will sink in fresh or
brackish water. However sea water has a
density of approximately 1.025 and very few
crudes are dense enough or weather
sufficiently, so that their residues will sink in
the marine environment. Sinking usually
occurs due to the adhesion of particles of
sediment or organic matter to the oil. Shallow
waters are often laden with suspended solids
providing favourable conditions for sedimentation.
Oil stranded on sandy shorelines often becomes mixed with sand and
other sediments. If this mixture is subsequently washed off the beach back
into the sea it may then sink. In addition, if the oil catches fire after it has

been spilled, the residues that sometimes form can be sufficiently dense
to sink.

Biodegradation
Sea water contains a range of micro-organisms or microbes that can
partially or completely degrade oil to water soluble compounds and
eventually to carbon dioxide and water. Many types of microbe exist and
each tends to degrade a particular group of compounds in crude oil.
However, some compounds in oil are very resistant to attack and may not
degrade.
The main factors affecting the efficiency of biodegradation, are the levels
of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) in the water, the temperature and
the level of oxygen present. As biodegradation requires oxygen, this
process can only take place at the oil-water interface since no oxygen is
available within the oil itself. The creation of oil droplets, either by natural
or chemical dispersion, increases the surface area of the oil and increases
the area available for biodegradation to take place.

Combined processes
The processes of spreading, evaporation, dispersion, emulsification and
dissolution are most important during the early stages of a spill whilst
oxidation, sedimentation and biodegradation are more important later on
and determine the ultimate fate of the oil. To understand how different oils
change over time whilst at sea, one needs to know how these weathering
processes interact. To predict this, some simple models have been
developed based on oil type. Oils have been classified into groups roughly
according to their density - generally, oils with a lower density will be less
persistent. However some apparently light oils can behave more like heavy
ones due to the presence of waxes. Although simple models cannot predict
the changes an oil undergoes very precisely, they can provide clues about
whether an oil is likely to dissipate naturally or whether it will reach the
shoreline. This information can be used by spill responders to decide upon
the most effective spill response techniques and whether such techniques
can be initiated quickly enough.

Persistence of Oil
The concept of persistence in relation to oil spills probably originated after
the TORREY CANYON incident in 1967. This is the time when discussions
first arose regarding various new measures to protect the marine
environment and to manage marine oil spills, particularly in relation to
liability and compensation. Generally, persistent oils contain a
considerable proportion of heavy fractions or high-boiling material. They
do not dissipate quickly and will therefore pose a potential threat to
natural resources when released to the environment. Such threats are
evident in terms of impacts to wildlife, smothering of habitats and oiling of
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amenity beaches. In contrast, non-persistent oils are generally of a


volatile nature and are composed of lighter hydrocarbon fractions. When
released into the environment they will dissipate rapidly through
evaporation. As a result, spills of these oils rarely require a response but
when they do, clean-up methods tend to be limited. Impacts from nonpersistent oils may include, for example, effects on paint coatings in
marinas and harbours and - at high concentrations - acute toxicity to
marine organisms.
The international compensation regime for oil spills
only applies to spills of persistent oil. Whilst this
term is not precisely defined in any of the
conventions, the International Oil Pollution
Compensation Funds (IOPC Funds) have developed
guidelines which are widely accepted. Under
these guidelines an oil is considered non-persistent
if at the time of shipment at least 50% of the
hydrocarbon fractions, by volume, distil at a
temperature of 340C (645F) and at least 95% of the hydrocarbon
fractions, by volume, distil at a temperature of 370C (700F) when tested
in accordance with the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM)
Method D86/78 or any subsequent revision thereof.
However, this definition is based on distillation characteristics of oils under
standard laboratory conditions. It may not, therefore, fully reflect the
behaviour of oil in the environment, where factors such as burial in
sediments can lead to the long-term persistence of oils that would
normally be defined as non persistent.
Oils which are normally classified as persistent include crude oils, fuel oils,
heavy diesel and lubricating oils. Non-persistent oils include gasoline, light
diesel oil and kerosene.

Models
Modelling of the likely fate and behaviour of oil once spilled can follow a
number of different approaches. These range from a simple vector
calculation, to estimate the probable twodimensional trajectory of the
centre point of a slick, to sophisticated computer models of the movement
and distribution of the oil in three dimensions with the concurrent
predictions of the change in properties as the oil weathers. The main
properties which affect the fate of spilled oil at sea are specific gravity (its
density relative to pure water - often expressed as API* or API gravity);
distillation characteristics (its volatility); viscosity (its resistance to flow);
and pour point (the temperature below which it will not flow). In addition
the wax and asphaltene content influence the likelihood that the oil will
mix with water to form a water-in-oil emulsion. Oils which form stable oilin-water emulsions persist longer at the water surface.

Volume of oil and water-in-oil emulsion remaining on the sea surface, as a


percentage of the original volume spilled
The graph above represents a simple empirical model based upon the
properties of different oil types. For this purpose, it is convenient to
classify the most commonly transported oils into four main groups, roughly
according to their specific gravity (see table below). Having classified the
oils, the expected rate at which the volume of oil at the sea surface
decreases can be estimated. These four groups are shown in the above
graph, where account is also taken of the competing process of
emulsification which, for most oils, leads to an increase in volume.
Group

Density

Examples

GroupI

less than 0.8

Gasoline, Kerosene

GroupII

0.8 - 0.85

Gas Oil, Abu Dhabi Crude

GroupIII

0.85 - 0.95

Arabian Light Crude, North Sea Crude Oils (e.g Forties)

GroupIV greater than 0.95

Heavy Fuel,Venezuelan Crude Oils

Group I oils (non-persistent) tend to dissipate completely through


evaporation within a few hours and do not normally form emulsions. Group
II and III oils can lose up to 40% by volume through evaporation but,
because of their tendency to form viscous emulsions, there is an initial
volume increase as well as a curtailment of natural dispersion, particularly
in the case of Group III oils. Group IV oils are very persistent due to their

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lack of volatile material and high viscosity, which preclude both


evaporation and dispersion.
To model the movement of oil, the most important input parameters
include the type and quantity of oil spilled, along with the rate of release.
Key environmental input data include wind, ocean currents, tides and air
and sea temperatures. While this does not sound particularly onerous, one
must keep in mind that there are numerous variables associated with each
of these parameters and usually this type of information is not readily
available. The reliability of a trajectory model will depend on the
availability of a detailed hydraulic model from which water movement data
can be drawn and these require detailed knowledge of water depths
(bathymetry), currents at various depths and tidal streams. Although
trajectory models exist where such basic data can be input to generate
hydraulic models, this takes considerable time and most are limited to
those geographic areas where such hydraulic models already exist.
The other component required to model the transport of oil spilled at sea
is wind data. During the period over which the incident is modelled the
wind strength and direction is likely to change and can vary at different
locations across the spill area as time progresses. As far as possible this
information also has to be input to the model although often, average
values are used for set time intervals.
It is important to appreciate the assumptions upon which models are
based and not to place complete reliance on the results. However, they
can serve as a useful guide to understanding how a particular oil is likely
to behave and help in assessing the scale of the problem which a spill
might present. The principle uses of such models are for planning, training,
emergency response, and impact assessment. The suitability of computer
modelling for each of these applications differs.
Computer models are widely used for contingency planning where they are
particularly helpful for decision makers who need to link their site-specific,
pre-identified risks with decisions concerning the locations and make-up of
the planned response measures, including equipment, materials and
manpower. This can be done by running the model over and over using a
range of the most likely scenarios and then observing the predicted oil
movement and behaviour. Based on the results, those locations shown to
be the most vulnerable can be identified, the logistics of responding to
these locations studied and response assets placed accordingly. There is,
of course, no guarantee that these resources will be best placed in the
event of a spill, but the planners will have made the best judgement based
on available information.
Spill response training is another key application for models. The model is
used to help course participants feel as if they are involved in a real-life
situation, even if they are only taking part in a table-top exercise. Trainers
use the models in a variety of ways, but one approach is to run the model
at real-time speed for 20-30 minutes so that participants can make some
decisions about what measures should be taken and what equipment

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should be mobilised. Then the model is fast-forwarded to a later period


and participants are asked to deal with the updated situation. In this way,
an event of 2-3 days can be collapsed down to an hour or so.
The use of computer models in emergency response itself is much more
challenging, depending on the particular details of the case, because it
requires the timely acquisition of the numerous input parameters. Usually
the release occurs immediately after an incident occurs, for example,
following a collision. Little will be known about the oil types or the
quantities involved. As the incident develops better information will
improve the outcome of the model. However, one immediate application is
to inform decisions on the scope of initial aerial surveillance flights where
the movement of oil may not be immediately obvious, for example,
following an instantaneous release of oil at night the oil may have moved
a considerable distance from the source.
Perhaps the most controversial application of computer modelling is for
damage assessment. Computer modelling in this case is used to show
where the oil might have gone as it spread, drifted, dissolved, and
evaporated. In the simplest cases, reference is made to, for example, the
threshold levels for the contaminants in marine products for safe human
consumption. The geographic areas simulated to have been exposed to
concentration levels in excess of these standards are assumed to have
been impacted. In more sophisticated models, input data for related
toxicological studies is used together with ecological sub-models to predict
what sort of acute exposure and impact may have been experienced. The
trouble with this approach is that the models do not actually show
damage, they simply predict it based on a host of simplifying assumptions.
Many years of field experience have made it clear that when there is real
impact, it can be observed on site. While before-the-fact impact
assessment might be a useful planning tool, for example to study the need
for specialist wildlife cleaning equipment and expertise, it is no
replacement for scientific field work and postspill surveys.
*API = (141.5/SG) -131.5
Note: API gravity values increase with decreasing density eg. SG 1 = 10

API & SG 0.8 = 45.4 API

Effects of Oil Spills


Oil spills can have serious effects on
marine life, as highlighted by the
photos of dead birds which regularly
appear in the news after such an
event. Such images fuel the perception
of widespread and permanent
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environmental damage after every spill, and an inevitable loss of marine


resources with serious economic repercussions. A science-based appraisal
of the effects reveals that whilst damage occurs and may be profound at
the level of individual organisms, populations are more resilient and
natural recovery processes are capable of repairing the damage and
returning the system to normal functions. The first stage on the road to
recovery is usually a well conducted clean-up operation but in some
specific habitats aggressive clean-up methods can cause more harm than
good and then it is better to let natural cleaning processes take their
course.
Many spill impacts have been documented in the scientific and technical
literature, and although not all the effects of oil pollution are completely
understood, an indication of the likely scale and duration of damage can
usually be deduced from the information available. However, it can be
difficult to present a balanced view of the realities of spill effects, given the
often highly charged and emotional nature of a spill and its aftermath. The
scientific community can become polarised into opposing camps with one
side intent on quantifying every aspect of damage, and the other
emphasising the capacity of the environment to recover naturally. The
simple reality is that sometimes significant damage occurs, sometimes not
and the aim of these pages is to draw together what general information is
known about spill effects and their longevity.
The marine ecosystem is highly complex and natural fluctuations in
species composition, abundance and distribution are a basic feature of its
normal function. The extent of damage can therefore be difficult to detect
against this background variability. Nevertheless, the key to understanding
damage and its importance is whether spill effects result in a downturn in
breeding success, productivity, diversity and the overall functioning of the
system.
Spills are not the only pressure on marine habitats; chronic urban and
industrial contamination or the exploitation of the resources they provide
are also serious threats. The following sections consider some of the types
of damage caused by oil spills as well as some of the benefits of
conducting post-spill studies.

Environmental Impact
The exact nature and duration of any impacts from an oil spill depend on a
number of factors. These include the type and amount of oil and its
behaviour once spilled; the physical characteristics of the affected area;
weather conditions and season; the type and effectiveness of the clean-up
response; the biological and economic characteristics of the area and their
sensitivity to oil pollution. Typical effects on marine organisms range
across a spectrum from toxicity (especially for light oils and products) to
smothering (heavier oils and weathered residues). The presence of toxic
components does not always cause mortality, but may induce temporary

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effects like narcosis and tainting of tissues, which usually subside over
time. Some typical oil impacts are described below.

Plankton
The importance of plankton in primary productivity of the oceans and as a
temporary home for the eggs and larvae of fish, shellfish, sea bed and
shoreline organisms is well known, but is there evidence of widespread
harm to these functions from spills which subsequently translates into long
term damage? Laboratory studies have demonstrated toxic and sub-lethal
effects on the plankton caused by oil, and there is little doubt that there is
potential for widespread impact. Unfortunately, plankton is extremely
difficult to study reliably because they are amongst the most variable of
marine communities in space and in time. The presence of oil on open
water is also patchy and transient, making it difficult to establish where
and when the plankton might have been exposed to the oil. Whilst the
possibility of long-term effects can not be excluded, there is no indication
that oil-induced losses of eggs and larval stages cause a significant decline
in adult populations.

Seabirds
Seabirds are amongst the most
vulnerable inhabitants of open waters
since they are easily harmed by floating
oil. Species that dive for their food or
which congregate on the sea surface are
particularly at risk. Although oil ingested
by birds during attempts to clean
themselves by preening may be lethal,
the most common cause of death is from
drowning, starvation and loss of body
heat following fouling of plumage by oil.
Cleaning and rehabilitation after oiling is often attempted, but for many
species it is rare for more than a fraction of oiled birds to survive cleaning
and rarer still for those that survive to breed successfully after release.
Penguins are an exception and are much more resilient than most other
birds. When handled properly, the majority are likely to survive the
cleaning process and rejoin breeding populations.
Bird mortality occurs during most spills and in some major spills breeding
colonies have been seriously depleted. Some species react to colony
depletion by laying more eggs, breeding more frequently or younger birds
joining the breeding group. These processes can assist recovery, although
recovery may take several years and will also depend on other factors like
food supply. Whilst it is common for short and medium term loss to occur
in populations, there is scant evidence of spills causing long-term harm to
populations, or of a spill tipping a marginal colony into permanent decline.

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Sea Mammals
Whales, dolphins and seals in the open
sea do not appear to be particularly at
risk from oil spills. Marine mammals
such as seals and otters that breed on
shorelines are, however, more likely to
encounter oil. Species which rely on fur
to regulate their body temperature are
the most vulnerable since, if the fur
becomes matted with oil, the animals
may die from hypothermia or
overheating, depending on the season.

Shallow Coastal Waters


Spill damage in shallow waters is most often caused by oil becoming
mixed into the sea by wave action or by dispersant chemicals used
inappropriately. In many circumstances the dilution capacity is sufficient to
keep oil concentrations in the water below harmful levels, but in cases
where light, toxic products have become dispersed, or in major incidents
where heavy wave action has dispersed large volumes of oil close inshore,
large kills of marine organisms such as shellfish have occurred. Post-spill
studies reveal that recovery has taken place in a relatively short timescale
through the processes noted earlier, and impacts are rarely detectable
beyond a few years. In one instance, the BRAER spill in Shetland, UK, most
of the spilt oil was dispersed naturally by heavy wave action, thus avoiding
much of the shoreline contamination normally associated with large oil
spills. However, some oil became incorporated into sea bed sediments,
causing long-term tainting of some commercial species.

Shorelines
Shorelines, more than any other part of
the marine environment, are exposed to
the effects of oil as this is where it
naturally tends to accumulate. However,
many of the animals and plants on the
shore are inherently tough since they
must be able to tolerate periodic
exposure to pounding waves, drying
winds, high temperatures, rainfall and
other severe stresses. This tolerance also
gives many shoreline organisms the
ability to withstand and recover from oil spill effects.
Rocky and sandy shores exposed to wave action and the scouring effects
of tidal currents tend to be resilient to the effects of a spill as they usually
self-clean quite rapidly. Rocky shores exposed to wave action are often
quoted as those which recover most rapidly, and there have been many
cases in which this was true. A typical example of impact on this habitat is
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the temporary loss of a keystone species, the limpet, which is a grazing


snail, which leads to a 'bloom' of seaweeds in their absence. Because of
the increased availability of their food source, re-colonisation by limpets
usually follows rapidly and the normal grazing pattern is re-established.
However, in some circumstances, subtle changes to rocky shore
communities can be triggered by a spill, which can subsequently be
detected for ten or more years. Although the functioning, diversity and
productivity of the ecosystem is restored, the detailed distribution of
particular species present may alter. The TORREY CANYON oil spill in 1967
is a case in point. Heavy and inappropriate use of toxic cleaning agents
caused massive damage to some shores, and although re-colonisation by
most of the dominant organisms was rapid, subtle differences in the
distribution of species could be traced over more than twenty years when
compared with un-oiled sites. The overall functioning and productivity of
these shores seems unimpaired, but it is difficult to be absolutely certain
of this because of all the other stresses on the system, including those
from tourism and fishing.
Soft sediment shores consisting of fine sands and mud are found in areas
which are sheltered from wave action, including estuaries, and tend to be
highly biologically productive. They often support large populations of
migrating birds, indigenous populations of specialist sediment dwellers
and shellfisheries. They also act as nursery areas for some species. Oil can
become incorporated in fine sediments through a number of mechanisms.
Examples include flocculation with sediment stirred up by storm activity
and penetration down worm burrows and open plant stems. If oil does
penetrate fine sediments it can persist for many years, increasing the
likelihood of longer-term effects. The upper fringe of 'soft' shores is often
dominated by saltmarsh which is generally only temporarily harmed by a
single oiling. However, damage lasting many years can be inflicted by
repeated oil spills or by aggressive clean-up activity, such as trampling or
removal of oiled substrate.
In tropical regions, mangrove swamps
replace saltmarshes and provide an
extremely rich and diverse habitat as
well as coastal protection and
important nursery areas. The mangrove
trees which provide the framework
upon which this habitat depends can
sometimes be killed depending on the
type of oil and the substrate in which
the trees are growing. Damage is more
likely if oil smothers their breathing
roots or if toxic oils penetrate the
sediments. Where high mortality of trees occurs, in some cases including
trees which are 50 or more years old, natural recovery to a diverse and
productive structure can take decades. An important function of both
saltmarsh and mangrove habitats is that they provide organic inputs to

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coastal waters which in turn enrich the communities living there. It is in


these marsh and mangrove areas where damage has been recorded that
reinstatement measures have real potential to speed up recovery.

Recovery
Natural Recovery
Marine organisms have varying degrees of natural resilience to changes in
their habitats. The natural adaptations of populations of animals and
plants to cope with environmental stress, combined with their breeding
strategies, provide important mechanisms for coping with the daily and
seasonal fluctuations in their habitats and for recovering from predation
and other stochastic events.
Some natural phenomena can be highly destructive. The short-term power
of hurricanes and tsunamis can easily be appreciated, as can the damage
they cause. The cyclical El Nio phenomenon has major long-term
consequences for marine organisms, seabirds and marine mammals
throughout the entire Pacific Ocean. Organisms suffer under such
onslaughts, but after what is often severe disruption and widespread
mortality, the marine populations re-establish themselves over a period of
time and this process constitutes natural recovery.
An important reproductive strategy for
many marine organisms is the
production of vast numbers of eggs and
larvae which are released into the
plankton and are widely distributed by
currents. This mechanism has evolved
to take maximum advantage of
available space and resources in marine
habitats and to deal with e.g. predation.
In some cases, only one or two
individuals in a million actually survive through to adulthood.
A less common reproductive strategy that is generally restricted to longlived species that do not reach sexual maturity for many years is to
produce relatively few, well-developed, offspring. These species are better
adapted to stable habitats and environments and as a result, their
populations are likely to take much longer to recover from the pressures of
localised mortality e.g. the effects of an oil spill.
Whilst there may be considerable debate over what constitutes recovery,
there is a widespread acceptance that natural variability in systems makes
getting back to the exact pre-spill condition unlikely, and most current
definitions of recovery focus on the re-establishment of a community of
plants and animals which are characteristic of the habitat and are
functioning normally in terms of biodiversity and productivity.

17

Restoration
Removal of bulk oil contamination either through natural processes or a
well-conducted clean up operation is the first stage of the recovery and
restoration of a damaged environment. Dependent on the scale and nature
of the spill, for many marine habitats, the clean up operation is all that is
necessary to promote natural recovery, and there is little further that can
be done to speed up this process.
However, in some cases, especially in circumstances where habitat
recovery would otherwise be relatively slow, the clean up operation can be
followed by further measures which help restore a habitat structure. An
example of such an approach following an oil spill would be to replant an
area of salt marsh or mangrove after the bulk oil contamination has been
removed. In this way erosion of the area would be minimised and other
forms of biological life would be encouraged to return.

A salt marsh impacted by an oil spill before (left) and after (right)
replanting

While it may be possible to help restore damaged vegetation and physical


structures, designing meaningful restoration strategies for animals is a
much greater challenge. In some cases it may be warranted to protect a
natural breeding population at a nearby non-impacted site, for example by
predator control, to provide a reservoir from which re-colonisation of the
impacted areas can occur. In reality, the complexity of the marine
environment means that there are limits to which ecological damage can
be repaired by artificial means. In most cases natural recovery is likely to
be relatively rapid and will only rarely be outpaced by restoration
measures.

Post-spill Studies
The short-term effects of oil spills on many marine species and
communities are well known and predictable, but concerns are often
raised about possible longer-term ("sub-lethal") population effects.
Extensive research and detailed post-spill studies have shown that many
components of the marine environment are highly resilient to short-term
adverse changes, including oil spills, and as a result even a major oil spill
will rarely cause permanent effects.

18

However, in some instances, in order to determine the full extent of the


damage and the progress of the recovery, it may be necessary to
undertake post-spill studies. The costs of post-spill studies may be
admissible for compensation under the international conventions provided
they are a direct consequence of a particular spill and are intended to
establish the precise nature and extent of environmental damage and
habitat recovery. Studies of a general or purely scientific character would
not be admissible for compensation.
Studies will not be necessary after all spills
and would normally be most appropriate in
the case of major incidents where there is
evidence of significant environmental
damage. Any studies which are considered
should be carried out with scientific rigour,
objectivity and balance, with the aim of
providing reliable and useful information
towards assessing pollution damage,
reasonable reinstatement measures and habitat recovery. The scale of
such studies should be in proportion to the extent of the contamination
and the predictable effects.
Economic Impacts
Contamination of coastal amenity areas is a common feature of many oil
spills, leading to interference with recreational activities such as bathing,
boating, angling and diving. Hotel and restaurant owners and others who
gain their livelihood from the tourist trade can also suffer temporary
losses. A return to normal requires an effective clean up programme and
the restoration of public confidence.
Industries that rely on seawater for their
normal operation can also be adversely
affected by oil spills. Power stations and
desalination plants which draw large
quantities of seawater can be particularly
at risk, especially if their water intakes are
located close to the sea surface, thereby
increasing the possibility of drawing in
floating oil. The normal operations of other
coastal industries, such as shipyards,
ports and harbours, can also be disrupted
by oil spills and clean-up operations.

Fisheries and Mariculture


An oil spill can directly damage the
boats and gear used for catching or
cultivating marine species. Floating
equipment and fixed traps extending
19

above the sea surface are more likely to become contaminated by floating
oil, whereas submerged nets, pots, lines and bottom trawls are usually
well protected provided they are not lifted through an oily sea surface.
However, they may sometimes be affected by dispersed or sunken oil.
Less common is mortality of stock, which can be caused by physical
contamination or close contact with freshly spilled oil in shallow waters
with poor water exchange.
A common cause of economic loss to
fishermen is interruption to their activities by
the presence of oil or the performance of
clean-up operations. Sometimes this results
from a precautionary ban on the catching
and sale of fish and shellfish from the area,
both to maintain market confidence and to
protect fishing gear and catches from
contamination. Cultivated stocks are more at
risk from an oil spill: natural avoidance
mechanisms may be prevented in the case of captive species, and the
oiling of cultivation equipment may provide a source for prolonged input of
oil components and contamination of the organisms. Cultured seaweed
and shellfish are particularly vulnerable in tidal areas where they may
become contaminated with oil as the tide drops.
It is almost always necessary to make a thorough investigation of the
status of a fishery and alleged effects of a spill, in order to determine the
real impacts. This will often require scientifically rigorous sampling and
analytical techniques which are capable of documenting the damage and
providing proof that any damage observed has been caused by the oil in
question. Nevertheless, separating spill effects from other factors which
affect fisheries is frequently problematic. Wild stocks of commercial
species are in decline in many parts of the world because of over-fishing,
industrial pollution, destruction of coastal habitats and other natural
factors such as increasing sea temperature. Similarly, mariculture is often
ravaged by disease or suffers from the accumulation of its own wastes.
Therefore, in order to make the best assessment of damages attributed to
contamination by oil it is necessary to make comparisons of post-spill
recovery results with the conditions which pre-existed the spill or with
control areas outside the affected area.

About Vegetable Oil Spills


The fate, behaviour and environmental impact of spills of vegetable oils in
the marine environment are not as widely appreciated as those of mineral
oils. Despite this, a spill of vegetable oil can prove to be equally
problematic.
What are Vegetable Oils?
Behaviour and Fate of Vegetable Oils
20

Impact of Vegetable Oil Spills


Response Techniques

What are Vegetable Oils ?


Vegetable oils are oil extractions from plants and fruit such as palm nut,
sunflower, soybean, coconut, rapeseed, canola, olive, castor and corn.
There are a variety of derivatives and degrees of processing. For example,
in general terms, crude describes oil that has been generated by
extraction with no further processing. De-gummed oil describes a more
refined product with the resin-like compounds removed whereas the term
refined oil applies to those products that have been clarified and any
undesirable colour and sediment removed.

Behaviour and Fate of Vegetable Oils


As with mineral oils, vegetable oils can vary significantly and on release to
the marine environment will behave differently according to their
individual characteristics. These characteristics will depend on factors at
the time of cultivation of the feed stock eg climate; the degree of
processing; the type and specific nature of the oil, the sea state and
weather conditions at the time of the spill. In many circumstances, the
influence of vegetable oil characteristics on the behaviour of the oil in the
environment is not well studied or understood. Consequently, the
behaviour and fate of specific vegetable oils is somewhat harder to predict
than that of mineral oils.
In general, vegetable oils will behave similarly to mineral oils in the initial
stage of a spill. To this extent, they will tend to float and spread on the
surface of the water. However, vegetable oils tend to be even less soluble
in water than mineral oils; they do not undergo dispersion in the water
column nor will they evaporate to any extent.
Depending on their pour point (the temperature at which solidification
commences) and the sea surface temperature, vegetable oils may form
solid lumps when spilled that will float on the water surface. These discrete
lumps have little tendency to coalesce as a surface slick. Over time and
dependent on the prevailing conditions the product may accumulate
sediment and may sink to the sea floor.
Vegetable oils are comprised primarily of triacylglycerols, or fatty acids,
which, in their fresh state, may be broken down by marine bacteria. This
decomposition contributes to the rancid odours typical of vegetable oil
spills.
Vegetable oils will not readily form water-in-oil emulsions but may undergo
a process of polymerisation to form rubbery strings and clumps. These
deposits are highly impermeable curtailing oxygen diffusion and
replenishment, dramatically slowing the degradation process and forming
an anoxic layer. By this process, vegetable oils, particularly with the

21

incorporation of sediment, may give rise to the formation of very tough


and highly persistent deposits.
Generalised Summary Of Vegetable Oil Behaviour

Low aquatic toxicity


Limited solubility in water
Do not evaporate to any significant degree
Generally do not form water-inoil emulsions (though water may become
entrapped in
polymerised lumps)
Do not undergo dispersion in water
Tendency to polymerise
Not amenable to dispersion by oil dispersants

Impact of Vegetable Oil Spills

Return to top

Historically, vegetable oils have been considered relatively benign, nontoxic and therefore of limited concern to the environment. However, this
generalisation has been demonstrated to be incorrect. Previous experience
has shown that both chronic and acute pollution incidents can lead to
deleterious effects. This awareness has led to the reclassification of many
vegetable oils as category Y (hazardous) products under Annex II of the
MARPOL Convention with associated limitations on their carriage.

Spilled palm oil

Rock coated with palm oil

In this incident, skimmers were


A spill from a palm oil
production plant in Colombia put to work recovering the oil
Elastec
Elastec

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(Note, the appearance and characteristics of the oil are dependent on a number of factors, such as
the degree of processing, see above)

The primary environmental consequences of spills of vegetable oils are


seen in relation to surface dwelling organisms where oil can lead to
smothering and suffocation. Examples include oiling of bird plumage and
animal fur. However, vegetable oils will also readily form solids which tend
to have less smothering impact on surface organisms. A polymerised
vegetable oil may form an impermeable barrier on the shoreline with
potentially serious environmental and economic consequences.
Unlike mineral oils, the environmental impact associated with ingestion of
vegetable oils is low. Whilst experimentation has shown some effects such
as reduced growth rates, poor food conversion and liver impairment in fish
and bivalves resulting from prolonged ingestion, these effects have been
minimal even in cases of heavy contamination. However, vegetable oil
spills can have significant effects through oxygen depletion and
asphyxiation.
One of the primary concerns with vegetable oils is the uncertainty and lack
of knowledge of their degradation and weathering products. Ongoing
research suggests for example that the toxicity of products such as canola
oil and soybean oil actually increase significantly during aerobic
biodegradation. The effects of such a process in a confined, shallow
environment could be significant.
Summary of Potential Environmental Impacts
Smothering
Coating fur and feathers
Suffocation through oxygen depletion and
smothering
Formation of intractable lumps in sediments
Polymerised oils produce impermeable layers on
shore
Chemical/
Suffocation through oxygen depletion
Biological
Anoxia in sediments and water
Amenity
Rancid odours, particularly during degradation
Fouled shorelines
Blocked water intakes
Physical

Response Techniques
With the tendency of some vegetable oils to polymerise and form solid
lumps, the most appropriate response technique is that of containment
and recovery. Ideally, these floating lumps should be removed from the
water surface before they have a chance to accumulate sediment and sink
and before they are able to reach the shoreline.
Response techniques applied during previous incidents involving a spill of
vegetable oil include the use of conventional boom for containment,

23

combined with a variety of recovery techniques. Skimmers may be used to


recover vegetable oils of suitable viscosity. Manual recovery techniques
employing scoops, trawls and grabs have proved to be effective in the
recovery of solidified vegetable oils. The high viscosity of solidified
vegetable oils may preclude certain recovery techniques, for example
using pumps. Furthermore, dispersants formulated for use on mineral oils
have been shown to have little or no effect on vegetable oils.

About HNS
The volume of chemicals transported by sea is increasing but remains
significantly lower than the seaborne trade in oil. In addition recent ITOPF
experience shows that spills of bunker fuel from all types of ship are at
least as likely to occur as loss of cargo oil from a tanker. Consequently
chemical spills occur at a much lower frequency than spills of oil. However,
the consequence of a chemical spill can be more wide reaching than that
of oil and there is growing international awareness of the need for safe and
effective contingency arrangements for chemical spills. The wide variety of
chemicals transported, their varying physical and chemical properties, the
different ways in which they behave in the environment and the potential
for effects on human health mean that response to chemical spills is not as
straightforward as for oil.
What are Hazardous and Noxious Substances (HNS)?
Human Health Aspects
Effects on Marine Resources
Fate of Chemicals in the Marine Environment
Chemical Response Strategies

What are Hazardous and Noxious Substances (HNS)?


A Hazardous and Noxious Substance is a term used to describe a
substance other than oil which, if introduced into the marine environment
is likely to create hazards to human health, to harm living resources and
marine life, to damage amenities or to interfere with other legitimate uses
of the sea.
Whether a substance is classed as hazardous or noxious is largely
determined by its inclusion in one or more lists found in a number of IMO
Conventions and Codes (see Table 1) designed to ensure maritime safety
and prevention of pollution. If the chemical transported has one or more of
the following properties, it is likely to be considered as a hazardous and
noxious substance. (Radioactive and infectious substances are outside the
scope of the HNS regime.)
Flammable
24

Explosive
Toxic
Corrosive
Reactive

Table 1: Examples of IMO Conventions and Codes providing HNS lists


Material

Conventions & Codes

Bulk Liquids

Chapter 17 of International Code for the


Construction and Equipment of Ships Carrying
Dangerous Chemicals in Bulk (IBC Code)

Gases

Chapter 19 of International Code for the


Construction and Equipment of Ships Carrying
Liquefied Gases in Bulk (IGC Code)

Solids in bulk

Appendix 9 of Code of Safe Practice for Solid


Bulk Cargoes (BC Code) if also covered by IMDG
Code in packaged form

Packaged goods International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code


(IMDG Code)

Human Health Aspects


Manufacturers of Hazardous and Noxious Substances typically provide
Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) which summarise the specific hazards
associated with each substance. Over time these will be replaced by
Safety Data Sheets (SDS) under the UN Globally Harmonized System of
Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS)*. GHS classifies chemicals
by the types of hazard they represent and proposes harmonized hazard
communication by consistent labelling and safety data sheets. It aims at
ensuring that information on physical hazards and toxicity from chemicals
is available to enhance the protection of human health and the
environment during the handling, transport and use of these chemicals.
MSDS and SDS both follow the same format and provide the following
information:

1. Identification

9. Physical & chemical


properties

25

2. Hazard(s) identification

10. Stability & reactivity

3. Composition/ingredients

11. Toxicological information

4. First-aid measures

12. Ecological information

5. Fire-fighting measures

13. Disposal considerations

6. Accidental release measures

14. Transport information

7. Handling & storage

15. Regulatory information

8. Exposure controls/personal
protection

16. Other information

Effects on Marine Resources


The effects of a chemical lost into the marine environment depend on a
number of factors such as the toxicity of the material, the quantities
involved and resulting concentrations in the water column, the length of
time biota are exposed to that concentration and the sensitivity of the
organisms to the particular chemical. Dilution is brought about by water
movement due to tidal flow, ocean currents and turbulent diffusion but
even if the concentration is below what would be considered lethal, sublethal concentrations can still lead to longer term impacts. Chemicallyinduced stress can reduce the overall ability of the organism to reproduce,
grow, feed or otherwise function normally. The characteristics of some
chemicals, particularly metals and some organic compounds, can result in
the bio-accumulation of these materials. Sessile marine organisms that
filter seawater for food, such as shellfish, are particularly vulnerable to this
phenomenon. Bio-magnification may follow if the materials pass up the
food chain.
GESAMP
The effects of chemicals on the marine environment have been
summarised by GESAMP (the Group of Experts on Scientific Aspects of
Marine Environmental Protection www.gesamp.net), an advisory body to
the United Nations established in 1969. GESAMP comprises experts, drawn
from a wide range of relevant disciplines, but who act in their individual
capacity. GESAMP has published a Hazard Evaluation of Substances
Transported by Ships for the most commonly transported chemicals. The
properties of the chemicals have been evaluated in relation to a number of
predefined effects should any of the listed chemicals be spilt at sea:
Bioaccumulation
Biodegradation

26

Acute and chronic toxicity on marine organisms


Long term health effects on humans
Effects on marine wildlife, and on benthic habitats
Effect on other marine resources

This easily accessible and simple guide provides an important first step in
evaluating the severity of a spill.
MARPOL
The MARPOL Convention is the main international convention covering
prevention of pollution from the shipping industry. Within MARPOL are two
annexes that are directly relevant to HNS:
Annex II
MARPOL Annex II contains regulations for bulk liquid cargos that may
cause environmental pollution if lost at sea. Within the annex are four
categories that are graded depending on the hazard the bulk liquid
presents to marine resources, human health and amenities.
Category X liquid substances which are deemed to present a major
hazard to either marine resources or human health, and therefore justify
the prohibition of the discharge into the marine environment.
Category Y liquid substances which are deemed to present a hazard to
either marine resources or human health or cause harm to amenities or
other uses of the sea and therefore justify a limitation on the quality and
quantity of the discharge into the marine environment.
Category Z liquid substances which are deemed to present a minor
hazard to either marine resources or human health and therefore justify
less stringent restrictions on the quality and quantity of the discharge into
the marine environment.
Category OS these other substances are deemed to fall outside of
categories X, Y, and Z and are deemed to present no harm to marine
resources, human health, amenities or other uses of the marine
environment.

Annex III
Annex III deals with the provisions for the
prevention of pollution by harmful
substances carried by seas in packaged
form. As part of these regulations, any
compounds that are environmentally
harmful (known as marine pollutants) must
be clearly marked and labelled as a marine
pollutant (see Figure 1) to distinguish them
from less harmful cargos.

27

Fate of Chemicals in the Marine Environment


Physical Behaviour
When chemicals are spilt, they behave in a number of different ways. It is
important to understand this behaviour, not only so that human health and
safety implications are recognised but also to decide on the most effective
response.
In simple terms, a substance behaves in one or more of five ways when
spilt:
Dissolve
Evaporate
Float
Gas
Sink

Figure 2: Processes that can act on a chemical spilt into the


marine environment

Classifying the substances depending on the properties they exhibit when


released into the marine environment is a useful response tool. The fate
28

of a substance is determined by the properties of volatility, solubility and


density and in turn, the nature of the hazard presented by the substance
(toxicity, flammability, reactivity, explosive, corrosive, etc). It also defines
the most appropriate technique in dealing with it, e.g. it may be possible
to contain and recover a chemical classed as a floater using a boom.
The classification system covers gases, liquids and solids. HNS showing
similar behaviour in water can be grouped together and classified into the
following 12 groups on the basis of the five behavioural characteristics
See Table 3. However, it is important to be aware that this system only
classifies chemicals according to their major property/properties relevant
to spill response and a chemical may also exhibit other properties e.g.
Benzene is classed according to its major property (evaporator) but it is
also soluble to a certain extent and so this too may need to be considered.
Table 3: the European Classification System for chemicals
Property Group
G
gas
GD
gas/dissolver
E
evaporator
ED
evaporator/dissolver
FE
floater/evaporator
FED
floater/evaporator/dissolver

Properties
evaporate immediately
evaporate immediately
float, evaporate rapidly
evaporate rapidly, dissolve
float, evaporate
float, evaporate, dissolve

F
FD
DE
D
SD
S

float
float, dissolve
dissolve rapidly, evaporate
dissolve rapidly
sink, dissolve
sink

floater
floater/dissolver
dissolver/evaporator
dissolver
sinker/dissolver
sinker

Chemical Response Strategies


Once the main physical and chemical properties, and hence the behaviour
of a spilt substance are known and the likely impacts to human health and
marine resources have been taken into account, a suitable response can
be considered. A brief summary of potential response techniques for the
different groups of chemicals is given below. However, the response
strategy eventually implemented will also be largely dependant on the
specific circumstances of the incident.
Gas & Evaporators- the release of a gas or chemical substance
evaporating under the weather conditions prevailing at the time have the
potential to generate large vapour clouds that might be toxic or form an
explosive mixture with air. As a result, there may be potential health and
safety implications for the vessel crew, responders and population nearby.
In order to plan a response, it is important to know how the gas or vapour
will behave and the likely trajectory of the hazardous cloud. Relevant

29

computer modeling of the spreading of airborne contaminants is likely to


help to forecast the movement and fate of the plume as it disperses.
Appropriate safety zones can then be put into place as necessary and the
public advised as appropriate.
Issuing advice to the public to remain indoors for a short period may be
given by the authorities. If the chemical is of a flammable nature, then all
ignition sources must be eliminated. Techniques such as trying to knock
down a water-soluble vapour cloud or trying to stop or deflect it using
water sprays are other measures that may be available to responders. In
such incidents occurring near populations, the fire brigade are likely to
have the commanding role in the response.
In any case, responders must wear the appropriate Personal Protective
Equipment (PPE) and response / monitoring crafts must be adequately
designed should they need to enter the hazardous atmosphere.
Chemicals that dissolve A dissolving chemical will form a growing plume
of decreasing concentration in the water and eventually dilute. It is
important to monitor the concentrations in the water to track the
movement of the chemical and therefore to predict any hazard that may
arise to the environment, fisheries, fresh water intakes, recreational areas,
etc. Again, relevant computer models can give useful indications on the
likely fate of the substance.
The ability to contain and recover dissolved chemicals is extremely limited.
Providing means to accelerate the natural processes of dispersion and
dilution may be the only way to respond to such chemicals. Some
dissolved chemical plumes may, in theory, be neutralised, oxidised,
flocculated or reduced by the application of other chemicals. However,
careful assessment of feasibility and expected efficiency in an open
environment as well as approval of the relevant authorities is usually
required before this response method is employed.
Chemicals that float - Chemicals that float will spread under the effect of
gravity to form a slick in a similar way to oil. However, unlike oil they may
not be visible on the water. Nevertheless, in some cases remote sensing
techniques may be employed to detect and monitor floating materials.
Floating chemicals can be low or high viscosity liquids, or may even be
solid. If the spilt chemical has a high vapour pressure it may evaporate
quickly and form a gas cloud above the slick. In such cases air quality
monitoring is usually undertaken to assess fire, explosion and toxicity
risks,.
It may be possible to consider deploying booms to contain and control the
movement of substances over the water surface. Skimmers and other oil
spill response equipment may also be used to recover the material from
the surface of the water. However, it is important to make sure, prior to
use, that the spilt chemical will not react with the equipment by taking into
account the chemicals reactivity. Alternatively, emergency responders

30

may have fire-fighting or suppressant foams that can be applied to reduce


the evaporation and the risk of fire/explosions.
Again, responders must wear the appropriate Personal Protective
Equipment and response / monitoring crafts must be adequately designed
should they need to enter a hazardous atmosphere.
Chemicals that sink Chemicals that sink have the potential to
contaminate the seabed, and sometimes to persist in the sediment. The
response to sunken chemicals may, therefore, need to consider the
recovery of the chemical and any heavily contaminated sediment. Careful
attention will also need to be paid to the removal and disposal of these
contaminated sediments.
In shallow waters, mechanical dredgers and pump/vacuum devices may be
used to recover sunken substances. The use of submersibles and remotely
controlled underwater cameras may identify and recover chemicals on the
seabed.

Bioaccumulation refers to the build up of a substance within a living


organism, or certain tissues of a living organism, due to the rate of uptake
of that substance being greater than the rate of elimination by metabolic
transfer or excretion. The term tends to be associated with certain lipidsoluble organic chemicals that are not readily metabolised by living
organisms such as pesticides (e.g. DDT) and organometallic compounds
such as methylmercury and tetra-ethyl lead (TEL).
Biomagnification refers to the sequential build up of a bioaccumulative
substance up the food chain through predation. Typically the highest
concentrations of the substance are found within the tissues of the top
predators within the food chain.
NB: Bioaccumulation occurs within a trophic (food
Biomagnification occurs across trophic (food chain) levels.

chain)

level.

31