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Containment Booms: Helping Clean Up Deadly Spills

Do you know that a single gallon of oil spilled on a body of water can create an oil slick up to a couple of acres in size? Now imagine the recent Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill, which dropped 4.1 million barrels of oil into the ocean as of August 2010. That oil spill disaster created an oil slick that spread over 580 square miles in just three days!

When oil is spilled or leaked into waterways and oceans, it spreads very quickly with the help of currents and wind. Though major oil spills like the one by BP do not frequently happen, there are other sources from which waste oil enters our waters. There is an estimated 706 million gallons of waste oil that goes into our oceans and waterways yearly. Most of these oil waste come from oily stormwater drainage, untreated waste disposal from factories and industrial facilities, and unregulated recreational boating. Offshore drilling and spills and leaks from tankers only constitute less than 8% of the total oil spill.

Oil spills can cause immense problems for the environmental and even your workplace. That is why the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has created rules and guidelines to safeguard the environment and our facilities from oil spills. And one highly effective tool for containing and cleaning up oil spills are containment booms.

According to EPA guidelines, the first line of action when an oil spill occurs is to install a containment boom. This keeps the oil from spreading further out to sea until it can be removed by other means. Containment booms surround and contain oil keeping it in one place. They also prevent oil form going to the shore, which may affect beach areas or residents populated by people.

Containment booms can be used to handle all types of hydrocarbon spills such as fuels, hydraulic oil, gasoline, diesel, motor oil, jet fuel and kerosene. Each boom reaches from 10 or 20 feet in length with either a 5" or 8" diameter. They are constructed with a tough outer mesh that covers an absorbent polypropylene filter. These filters are designed not to shed. A sturdy nylon rope runs through each boom and has carbon steel connectors enabling it to connect with other booms. This makes boom retrieval very easy. These booms come in bright colors, making them easy to see when they are fully saturated and needs to be replaced.

Oil spills and leaks don't just affect marine life. They have a direct impact on humans as well. The cost of an oil spill does not only pertain to monetary amount - it also accounts for the loss of our unspoiled habitat and communities, as well as unknown wildlife and human health effects from exposure to water and soil pollution. It is our responsibility to watch over our waters to prevent environmental pollution like oil spills from happening.

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