Cleaning Up Oil Spills

March 23, 2018

Imagine an environment filled with oil on the beaches and in the oceans. All you see is a thick black motor or crude oil on the top of the ocean and all those animals in the sea are dying. They can't swim, fly, eat, breath. They will die without help.


What’s an Oil Spill?

An oil spill happens when motor oil from other boats, and crude oil from offshore oil rigs and oil tankers, which leak into the oceans killing animals and plants that live in the sea.

How does oil harm the animals?
Oil harms the animals in the ocean by them breathing in the chemicals. When we humans smell the oil fumes it doesn’t harm us as much as it harms the animals in the ocean. A fish breathes by taking water into its mouth and forcing it out through the gill passages. Gills are feathery organs full of blood vessels. As water passes over the thin walls of the gills, dissolved oxygen moves into the blood and travels to the fish's cells. So when fish and other animals breathe the oil gets in their lungs causing them to choke and get poisoned at the same time, making it hard for them to breathe. Not only is that an issue, since the oil is very thick when it gets on animals like birds, the oil becomes too heavy for them to fly when they lift their wings up, which is bad because they can no longer travel to different destinations they need to live and get food.

How can we clean up oil spills?

I attend an IB school in which we are required to complete a community project.  After researching on various topics and projects. I decided to do oil spills because of how long the issue has been occurring worldwide and how bad sealife is getting affected. I set up my project by first bringing in different adsorbents (sponges, tissues, etc) and clear cups so we could see the effect of the oil, saltwater, and adsorbent in the water. I then tested the different objects in the water

How can we use this strategy to clean oil spills?

We can use this strategy because we basically use adsorbents or things that help us clean up liquids, like paper towels for drink spills, gauzes for blood cleanups, sponges to absorb soap to clean everyday objects, etc. But when really using this we can take homemade saltwater or water from a beach and test it with some of the oils that are in the ocean like motor oil and crude oil so it’s more realistic and we can take materials that we want to test and record data if it can absorb the oil at different times.

How could we use this strategy in real life?

We could probably make a big sponge like putting together different sizes and brands that work and have boaters or helicopters pull it from the ends of their transportation to clean it up.

We could use different materials to help clean oil spills but how?
Well what my partner Mirka and I did was we took 14 absorbents which were: Bounty paper towels, Regular/non-branded paper towels, Our school paper towels, Maxi feminine pad, Feminine pad with wings, Loose gauze, Tight gauze, Kitchen sponge, Sea sponge, Cello sponge, Nail polish remover pads, Our school tissues, and a Costco branded diaper. We did bring in motor/engine oil and some clear disposable cups to see the reaction of the oil and water mixing with the object/adsorbent. After 2 minutes we took out the absorbents and only 9 did work which was: Bounty and Regular paper towels, Feminine maxi pad, Loose and Tight gauze, All of the sponges, and the Diaper. We then left the absorbents in the liquid overnight and checked on them when we came back when we returned only 4 adsorbents worked which were the Bounty paper towels, Sea sponge, Cello sponge, and the Diaper. So if we were to clean up oil spills IRL I would recommend using the Sea and Cello sponge because not only are they sponges they also worked immediately and overnight still holding in all the oil.


Out of the 14 absorbents that were tested which are the best?
The best absorbents I would say are the ones that worked overnight which was the Bounty paper towels, Sea sponge, Cello sponge, and the Diaper. We did have 3 adsorbents that were close but left a little bit of oil and they were: Regular/non-branded paper towels, Loose gauze, and the kitchen sponge. But the best one I would recommend is the cello sponge and the diaper. I recommend the cello sponge because when we inserted the sponge into the liquid it absorbed right away and it passed both tests for soaking in all the oil, and the diaper because like the cello sponge it absorbed pretty quickly, however, the one thing that is bad is since the diaper has a powder in it that helps soak up liquid, it can harm and kill the animals in the ocean if eaten.


In conclusion, the way I want to help the environment is by getting the oil off the water, to prevent sea life or sea animals from getting endangered, and how I want to do that is by making sure beaches are clean, boaters or anyone taking transportation on the boat make sure there are no leaks or holes of where oil can spill, and have boats checked yearly so we could prevent oil spills from happening in the future.

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