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Oil Absorbents : Your First Line of Defense Against Oil Spills

Oil spills can be dangerous especially if they occur on water or near a body of water. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, there are almost 14,000 oil spills reported each year. Oil spills have the possibility of spreading quickly into our waterways and can cause irreversible damage to the environment and marine life.

They can also endanger the lives of the people who are exposed to it in the workplace. Businesses such as factories, refineries, machine shops or car repair shops deal with a lot of oil, grease and lubricants. Working with oil on a daily basis can mean potential and unavoidable oil spills and can create health and safety hazards. Slips and falls can happen, and can lead to injury and even death.

When an oil spill takes place, be it at home, in the workplace, or out at sea, the best way to efficiently address this problem is through containment. Mechanical containment or recovery is the primary method of dealing with oil spills in the United States. Containment and recovery equipment includes an assortment of oil absorbent booms, barriers, and skimmers, as well as natural and synthetic absorbent materials. This method captures and stores spilled oil until it can be disposed of properly.

Oil absorbents only absorb oil and other hydrocarbon products and repel water, making them ideal for cleanup and containment near bodies of water. These absorbents come in different colors, shapes and sizes for different applications. They include:

Oil Absorbent Pads and Rolls. These sorbents only absorb petroleum-based fluids but resists water. Pads are best used for small spill areas, for in-plant use as drip pads or as wipes around machinery and equipment. Rolls and sweeps are ideal for large spills and are also used around industrial equipment to protect floors from oil or chemical leakage.

Oil Socks, Booms, and Skimmers. These are used to skim oil spills off bodies of water such as lakes, ponds and streams. They can also be used in drains, sumps and holding tanks. Skimmers absorb heavy oil on water while others are used to absorb the extensive oil sheen off surface spills. Booms are rugged plastic net tubes filled with absorbent material. They are flexible and can be adapted to fit in waste water or holding ponds. They come with connectors at each end, allowing them to be linked together to provide a continuous chain of protection.

Oil Absorbent Pillows and Mats. These pillows absorb only oil and oil-based liquids, even from water. They are filled with recycled cellulose materials and are used to repel water in reservoirs and troughs, absorbing only petroleum-based fluids. They float on water, allowing for easy retrieval when oil has been absorbed.

Best Management Practices (BMP) states that any business, which poses a risk to the environment, must take on safety measures to prevent these hazards from causing any harm to the environment. BMPs and provisions of the Clean Water Act of the U.S. protect the integrity of the country's water supply and waterways. To comply with these provisions, businesses must adopt spill response plans and utilize spill response mechanisms to ensure that the environment and people are protected in the event an oil spill will occur.

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