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Microbial degradation. The fate of most petroleum substances in the marine environment is ultimately defined by their transformation and degradation due to microbial activity. About a hundred known species of bacteria and fungi are able to use oil components to sustain their growth and metabolism. In pristine areas, their proportions usually do not exceed 0.1-1.0% of the total abundance of heterotrophic bacterial communities. In areas polluted by oil, however, this portion increases to 1-10% [Atlas, 1993].
Oil aggregates can exist from a month to a year in the enclosed seas and up to several years in the open ocean [Benzhitski, 1980]. They complete their cycle by slowly degrading in the water column, on the shore (if they are washed there by currents), or on the sea bottom (if they lose their floating ability).
But bioremediation seemed to help. Local bacteria were found to be starving for nutrients, and once fertilizers were added to a test area they got busy. Within a couple weeks a “white window” of clean rocks appeared among the gunk-covered ones. Eventually more than 70 miles of beach were treated this way. Later researchers questioned how much oil the process actually got rid of, though. It’s been calculated that all told, bioremediation, skimming, spraying, and scrubbing were responsible for removing less than a sixth of the spilled oil. Whom- or whatever deserves the credit, most of the Exxon Valdez spillage did eventually disappear. Not all of it, though—biodegradation has its limits. Oxygen is key in much bacterial action, and once oil gets buried under sediment things really slow down. Conclusion? Let’s break this down into more digestible bits. Do oil spills mostly go away on their own? Yes. Does that mean we’re better off leaving them alone? Of course not. Nobody doubts we need to plug leaks and contain spillage, and I’m persuaded bioremediation helps at least sometimes.
Originally posted by ladyinwaiting
Ah, I know we've all been devoting some time thinking about this dilemma, and it's nice to see a thread dedicated to it.
My thoughts, from what I am able to piece together, are that it is indeed, better to bring it! Let's get it on the beaches so we can see it, and remove it.
Gross and dirty, yes. But when you have a problem, face it. I'd much rather be able to cope with it in this manner, than leave it swirling in the ocean to kill our marine life, with no way to get to it.
And the skimmers would also have a better visual on their targets.
As god-awful as it will be, Bring It On.
We can't clean up what we can't see.
Originally posted by ladyinwaiting
reply to post by justadood
Because everything else is simply a gamble, and I'm tired of gambling and losing in this disaster. No more "what-if's", "maybe", or "it shoulds".
I want good old fashioned tried and true. Put it out there where we can see it, and get the crap up.
Walk to a seemingly pristine patch of sand, plop down in a chair and start digging with your bare feet. Chances are you'll walk away with gooey tar between your toes. So far, cleanup workers hired by BP have skimmed only the surface, using shovels or sifting machines to remove oil.
The company is planning a deeper cleaning program that could include washing or incinerating sand once the leak is stopped.
But some experts debate whether it's best to just leave it alone and let nature run its course.
Originally posted by Geeky_Bubbe
I would think the best place for it is the beaches, hands down. The problem is that there are beaches and then there are marshes. There is no *worse* place for the oil than in the marshes.
There is no way to allow it to hit the beaches and still keep it from the marshes.
Cleaning up oil is tough at the beginning and gets harder every day. The first job is to contain a spill, a nearly impossible task in the real world.
On the water, booms which absorb and contain spills on relatively calm seas can be used to herd it into big pools that can be sucked up or burned. Burning needs perfect conditions, and one engineer compared a siphon to a toothpick in the Gulf. Chemical dispersants which separate crude into fine droplets can be sprayed from ships and planes. Rusty-colored oil 'mousse' can be seen in the Gulf of Mexico where dispersants mixed into the water by waves are breaking down the oil.
Above all, the oil needs to be kept off shore, which over time is the most difficult thing to do. When oil hits land it's often for a short visit -- dropping off a sheen and then moving with the tides up or down the shoreline. Eventually though, the oil ages, becoming a tar -- like a blob that gloms onto a surface and won't let go.
That's fine on a hard-packed sandy beach, which is the best place for an oil spill, since a careful lift of a thin layer of sand can get rid of most of the problem. But in marshes, new and old oil can spread thin and deep with a ferocity that makes any cleanup counterproductive -- boots kill more than the oil. Alaska's rocky coast is somewhere in between the two extremes, and just where the risks lay, and what the risks involved, is still debated today.
Al Maki, Exxon's chief scientist at the time, flew in early and knew what to do: break up the oil with chemical dispersants. The chemicals, which are being used widely in the current Gulf spill crisis, break oil into fine droplets so that it can be absorbed into the water and degrade naturally. Warm water and wave action speed the mixing and energy. "If we had a chance to use dispersants earlier in the game, it would have reduced the landing impact substantially," said Maki. Exxon, which was in charge of the cleanup, wasn't allowed to use dispersants for three critical, calm days, after the early Friday crash, he said. "The storm that came through on Sunday night moved the oil way out beyond our reaches and the use of dispersants was canceled," he said.
Originally posted by SimplyGord
What if the oil was 'under' the beaches and not on? Just a question. I know very little about the best way to dispose of such a volume so I offer no opinion.
Two current articles, one in floridaoilspill.com, and the other in floridaoilspilllaw.com, show oil under the surface in substantial quantities on the Florida panhandle and Orange Beach, Alabama. The Alabama mayor does not seem too happy to have it 'under' his beach.
If nature has a way of dealing with crude, Corexit might well have mixed up the equation.
Originally posted by StealthyKat
....as for disposal.......what they did was send the shoveled sand to a processing area, where they would separate the sand from the oil [saving the oil]....then the plastic bags of sand go to a hazardous waste dump and piled up there.