Crude Oil

Cleanup Methods

SRP: Wastewater from contaminant suppression, cleaning of protective clothing/equipment, or contaminated sites should be contained and evaluated for subject chemical or decomposition product concentrations. Concentrations shall be lower than applicable environmental discharge or disposal criteria. Alternatively, pretreatment and/or discharge to a permitted wastewater treatment facility is acceptable only after review by the governing authority and assurance that "pass through" violations will not occur. Due consideration shall be given to remediation worker exposure (inhalation, dermal and ingestion) as well as fate during treatment, transfer and disposal. If it is not practicable to manage the chemical in this fashion, it must be evaluated in accordance with EPA 40 CFR Part 261, specifically Subpart B, in order to determine the appropriate local, state and federal requirements for disposal.

Methods of cleanup include bioremediation ..., controlled burning, shoveling, and high-pressure hot water.

Equipment used to contain/remove oil spills: Containment Boom, a flexible, fence-type, water-borne pollutant containment barrier that floats on the water. The boom is reusable and must be decontaminated after use. It is very heavy to carry and difficult to work with. Oil skimmers are machines that separate oil floating on water. Three common types are Weir skimmers, Drum skimmers, and Oleophilic skimmers. Other equipment includes vacuums to remove oil from beaches and water surface, shovels to clean up oil on beaches, and oil absorbent socks, pompoms, and other equipment used alongside booms and are not reused.

The USEPA Office of Emergency Management (OEM) maintains a current product schedule of all dispersants, surface washing agents, surface collecting agents, bioremediation agents, microbiological cultures, enzyme additives, nutrient additives, and miscellaneous oil spill control agents for which data have been submitted to EPA as required by subpart J of the National Contingency Plan, Section 300.915. This listing does not mean that USEPA approves, recommends, licenses, certifies, or authorizes use of any of these products on an oil discharge. Additional information may be obtained from the NCP Information Line at (202)260-2342.

It is important to act fast to clean up an oil spill and prevent the oil from spreading to a bigger area. How the spill is cleaned up depends on where it happened. In smaller bodies of water oil does not spread as much and cleanup is easier. Oil floating on the surface can be held away from the shore by booms and cleared with skimmers. Booms are barriers that extend about three feet below the water surface. They are anchored near the shoreline. Booms intercept and contain the oil. Skimmers, such as vacuum machines or oil absorbent plastic ropes, are placed inside the boom to scoop up the oil. Booms and fences are often of little use in the open seas. They cannot contain a spill when there are big waves or strong currents. Once the oil is whipped into a froth called a mousse, skimming is difficult. Sometimes chemicals are used to speed the disposal of the oil into small globules that are more easily eaten by microorganisms.

/If/ oil reaches the shoreline, it can be cleaned in several ways: Manual pickup - hand tools are used to collect and bag oily materials. This method improves the appearance of the beaches. Tarmat breakup / removal - tarmats, which are thick asphalt-like coverings of oil, are slow to degrade, can be broken with hand tools and then scattered or collected. Tilling/raking - Oil that is under the surface is exposed by using a rake to turn over the topsoil. Raking or tilling helps in natural degradation or bioremediation. Spot washing - hand-held high pressure washing tools are used to remove small accumulations of oil. The runoff water is then collected.

A technique called bioremediation has worked to remove underlying oil. Bioremediation involves covering the oiled area with "fertilizers" that contain microorganisms, like bacteria. These microorganisms speed the natural degradation processes already at work. It is thought that the more microorganisms at work, the faster the oil will be removed.

In-situ burning of spilled oil, which receives considerable attention in marine conditions, could be an effective way to cleanup wetland oil spills. An experimental in-situ burn was conducted to study the effects of oil type, marsh type, and water depth on oil chemistry and oil removal efficiency from the water surface and sediment. In-situ burning decreased the total targeted alkanes and total targeted polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the burn residues as compared to the pre-burn diesel and crude oils. Removal was even more effective for short-chain alkanes and low ring-number PAHs. Removal efficiencies for alkanes and PAHs were >98% in terms of mass balance although concentrations of some long-chain alkanes and high ring-number PAHs increased in the burn residue as compared to the pre-burn oils. Thus, in-situ burning potentially prevents floating oil from drifting into and contaminating adjacent habitats and penetrating the sediment. In addition, in-situ burning significantly removed diesel oil that had penetrated the sediment for all water depths. Furthermore, in-situ burning at a water depth 2 cm below the soil surface significantly removed crude oil that had penetrated the sediment. As a result, in-situ burning may reduce the long-term impacts of oil on benthic organisms.

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