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Hitting the Shore - How an Oil Slick Affects the Shoreline

Posted on 13 June 2017
Hitting the Shore - How an Oil Slick Affects the Shoreline
As we all know, when oil spills happen at sea, the oil floats on the surface of the water.  With the movement of the tide, the wind, and the waves, oils spills at sea will spread quickly, and often reach the coastline. Such oil slicks can have a devastating effect on the environment, so it is important to know how oil affects sandy coasts.

An oil slick on the ocean surface is relatively simple to clean up using tools such as booms, spill absorbents and our BioConcentrate oil / water separator. Water also naturally disperses the oil. However, when the oil reaches the shore, as happened in the 2009 Queensland oil spill, it is much more difficult to deal with. Some of the major problems posed by oil spills in coastal areas are as follows:


The coarser the sand granules or pebbles, the easier it is for the oil to soak into the ground. This makes it harder to remove, and it can be almost impossible to completely clean the shore after a spill. Oil that has seeped deep into the ground is no longer exposed to the elements (sun, wind, water) and takes decades to degrade.

Impact on the Ecosystem

Although there are many resilient species that thrive along the ever-changing shoreline, they are no match for slick, toxic substances including oil which can devastate whole ecosystems. The effects of the oil are often made worse as many creatures burrow beneath the sand, and the pathways they dig ease the penetration of the oil into the sand. In many cases, after oil has devastated a shoreline it may remain devoid of life for years.

A Problematic Clean-up

Oil spills in sedimentary areas are much more difficult to clean up than those on the water surface. The first step in the clean-up process must be a thorough benefit analysis. Shore cleaning is not only financially draining - it can also pose additional environmental risks. In previous oils spills, the chemicals and hot water washing used to clean coastlines were also found to cause environmental damage.

It is hard to measure the environmental impact of an oil spill. When responders act quickly to remove the oil, the negative after-effects that can last for many years are minimised. Here at Argyle Commercial, we supply a wide range of industrial oil spill response tools, including the most effective absorbents and industry standard spill response chemistries that are appropriate for most applications. With our products on hand, you will be able to respond quickly to spills and leaks before they hit the shore.

About Us:  Since 1997, Argyle Commercial has been a leading supplier of spill response equipment, dangerous goods storage and engineered silt curtain solutions.  We help customers comply with environmental and OH&S regulations, making work environments safer and more risk free.

This blog post is intended as a guide only, and should not be relied upon as professional and/or legal advice.  Argyle Commercial will not be held liable for any damages or losses caused by using information provided in this post as a basis for any decision where any such damages or losses may result.

Tags:AbsorbentsMarine Spill Control

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