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Cleaning Up after the Exxon Valdez Was A Mistake
Through many hours of research I have determined that the spill cleaning techniques used to clean the Prince William Sound area of Alaska did more harm than leaving the oil where it was. The Alaskan oil spill has become the most studied and managed event of its kind. Although there is not much that can be done about the marine life that came into direct contact with the crude oil, the geologic effects that the oil introduced into the area should have been left to nature to repair. To understand the effects of the oil to the area, it is best that you know a little bit about the oil itself.
There are many types of crude oil, but in general they contain hundreds, even thousands of different compounds. Some are straight-chain hydrocarbons with carbon numbers ranging from 4 or 5 to 35 or more. Other hydrocarbons have branched chains with a wide range of carbon numbers. Aromatic compounds such as benzene, toluene, and polynuclear hydrocarbons are substantially present. Other constituents include waxes and complex, high molecular weight asphaltenes. (Abelson) All of these substances and more are present in Prudhoe Bay crude oil. When ingested, most of the compounds are nontoxic. Notable exceptions are some of the aromatic compounds, including benzene and toluene.
After a crude oil is spilled in a marine environment, many processes follow.
Typical crude has a density of about 0.85, more or less, and this factor combined with winds, wave action, and currents leads to spreading, which is very rapid during the first 24 hours. During that period most of the components having boiling points below 200[deg.]C volatilize. As a result some of the toxic chemicals such as benzene are removed. (The composition of the floating mixture is further changed immediately and later by photooxidation, biodegradation, dispersion, and dissolution. About a day after the spill, depending on temperature and wave action, an emulsification of oil and sea water occurs, leading to formation of a highly viscous material that contains about 70% water. This material is very sticky, and it adheres to almost all objects that it encounters, including birds and sea otters. Abelson) There has been one report of a minor fish kill in Prince William Sound. Observations at other oil spills indicate that dispersed oil is not toxic to zooplankton when ingested. It is eliminated in the feces. In general, oil chemicals are not concent
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crude oil, oil spills, oil spill,
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the shoreline, Bragg,
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