It was not so long ago that the country watched in stunned silence as a BP oil rig exploded and millions of gallons of oil spilled into the ocean. We watched as the blue sea turned black, as experts from all over the world converged to find a solution to the oil well. And we watched as those experts remained confounded, unable to contain the 210 million gallons of crude oil pouring out of the burst well. Many people argued about who was to blame. Was it the men running the oil rig? The company, BP, that owned the rig? Or was it the politicians and government agents who were not doing enough to regulate the dangerous deep water drilling? The truth is that it was probably a combination of all of these parties that led to the terrible crisis. But while everyone is busy playing the blame game in situations like these, it is important to also clean up the mess that was made. In order to limit the damage, this cleanup should be done in an environmentally friendly manner. But in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the U.S. government used almost 2 million gallons of Corexit, a toxic oil dispersant that was later shown to cause health problems for all people, wildlife, and habitats that it came into contact with.
Below are some eco-friendly ways to deal with oil spills that can be implemented in spills large and small.
TIP #1 – Utilize the oil absorbing power of human hair.
This technique was discovered back in 1989 when Alabama hairdresser Philip McCrory was watching news coverage of the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska. He noticed that fur was being used to cleanup the oil and asked if human hair could do the same thing. And guess what? It can. Oil adheres to the hair making it a great option for oil cleanup. In New Orleans, Ritz Carlton a hotel staff member stuffed human hair into nylon stockings to help with the post-BP disaster efforts.
TIP #2 – Sic some oil eating bacteria on the spill!
According to Yahoo!, “The ocean comes with its own defense mechanism in the form of oil eating natural microorganisms and bacteria. They “eat” the oil and other unwelcome items in their environment. Adding fertilizer products to these micro-organisms could cause them to devour the oil at a faster rate, up to five times faster than the naturally occurring process.” But the oil spill has to reach a large size and make its way all the way to shore before this can be done. And waiting for that to happen is not an option.
TIP #3 – Peat moss can be used as a giant sponge.
Human hair is not the only natural product that can be used to absorb oil. According to Inhabit.com, “A Norwegian company has come up with a totally natural way to soak up nasty oil slicks – good old’ peat moss! The super absorbent moss they’ve developed can be scattered on the spill to absorb the oil, and then scooped right out of the water along with the oil.” This was tested in geological conservation areas and performed well.
TIP #4 – Mushrooms are good for more than just eating.
When I think of mushrooms, I usually think of sautéing them in garlic, olive oil, and a dash of salt. Yum! But did you know that they can also be using to “eat oil” in a spill? They are a great oil absorber because they have mycelium, a natural element that absorbs the environment’s toxins through a process known as bioremediation.
TIP #5 – Build an underwater dome to catch the oil as it spills. In a major spill, there are all sorts of ideas thrown around about how to contain the damage. One such idea is the underwater dome. During the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster, engineers at BP worked to build a giant dome for the purpose of lowering it on top of the spill in the hopes of capping it.
These are some of the most popular eco-friendly ways to clean up an oil spill right now but as technology advances, there will surely be more techniques developed. Just as importantly is that we lobby for better legislation and regulations and keep developing clean energy alternatives to break our dependence on these dirty, dangerous fossil fuels.
Mike Zook is a writer for MPC Containment Co. Mike writes about eco friendly ways to deal with oil spills and other disasters.