Canadian Consulting Engineer

Oil spills’ damage can last decades

Just as an oil tanker carrying 75 million litres broke up off the northwestern corner of Spain at the end of Novemb...

November 20, 2002   Canadian Consulting Engineer

Just as an oil tanker carrying 75 million litres broke up off the northwestern corner of Spain at the end of November, Scientific American magazine reported that the effects of such spills can last for decades.
Despite urgent efforts by tug boats to rescue the vessel and salvage crews to pump out the oil, the oil tanker “Prestige” ruptured and split in two about 150 nautical miles off the coast of Spain. The vessel was registered in the Bahamas. If the total load was lost, it would be twice the oil released in the great disaster of the Exxon Valdez spill off Alaska in 1989.
Meanwhile, Scientific American reported November 13 on studies by Christopher M. Reddy of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the U.S. that found that contaminating oil can persist in the marine environment perhaps indefinitely.
The Reddy team had studied a sediment core collected from marshland near West Falmouth, Massachussetts where a barge, “Florida” ran aground in 1969 and released 700,000 litres of oil. The scientists found that the sample core’s middle section, between six and 28 centimeters deep, contained levels of petroleum chemicals in concentrations similar to those detected immediately after the disaster, even though it is now 30 years later.


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