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Cleaning Oil Out of Water

One of the most devastating types of water pollution is an oil spill.  Though oil spills are not permanent, the harmful environmental effects can be seen years after the actual spillage.  Because damage from an oil spill can be so threatening, cleaning it up is extremely important. Here's some information about how environmental workers clean up an oil spill in a body of water.

When oil spills into water it has a tendency to spread out. Workers place floating barriers, called floating booms, in the water to help stop the oil from spreading.

The small lines you can see around the oil tanker are floating booms.

While most of the oil floats near the water's surface, some oil sinks in the water.  It then slowly dissolves and disperses into the water.  The water floating on top can be sucked up with a special vacuum.

These environmental workers are "vacuuming" the oil out of the water.
     After vacuuming the oil out of the water, workers apply oil-eating chemicals to the water.  These chemicals slowly break down the oil in the water. But this process takes many months to complete.  Workers use several different types of chemicals that "eat" the oil, and most of the chemicals are not harmful to the environment.
Environmental workers are dispersing oil-eating chemicals into this water, which is loaded with oil.

As a last resort, workers may burn the water to remove the oil.  This burning can be very dangerous because the oil is difficult to catch on fire. Also, rain can put the flames out very easily.  Furthermore, smoke from the flames can be bad for the environment.

Workers burn this water to remove the oil.

Any oil that makes its way to the shore must be sprayed with high-pressure hoses, and the oil must be removed by hand.

One of the best methods for cleaning oil off the shore is to spray the oil off the rocks then pick up the oil.
Cleanup Oil Spill! You Can Help Water Page Dragonfly Home
Photos courtesy of the EPA.


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