Introduction: (Initial Observation)
Harmful and long term effects of pollution is a raising concern that has forced governments to form hundreds of different organizations to study, plan, control or prevent industrial pollutions. Chemical spill is by far the most devastating cause of soil and water pollution in the word and it’s affects often remains for many centuries.
When liquid chemicals enter the ground, they are practically out of control. They get to under ground waters and then travel in different directions for many miles. Removing contaminations caused by chemical spills is now a big profitable business for many environmental protection companies around the world. In this project we will study dealing chemical spill and attempt to discover new or existing methods that can be used for decontamination caused by a chemical spill.
Now a days there is a good money in decontamination business. Environmental protection agencies are forcing companies and cities to remove and treat any existing contamination. Decontamination costs starts around $50,000 for an oil spill in a small home or business up to hundreds of millions of dollars to decontaminate parts of a river or a lake.
Many people are trying to discover new decontamination techniques and soon someone may come up with a magic powder that can decompose or destroy any existing contamination in soil or water. This lucky someone can be you
Find out about chemical spills. Read books, magazines or ask professionals who might know in order to learn about the effect of chemical spills and the way that they can be controlled or prevented. Keep track of where you got your information from. Following are some general information.
There are so many different chemicals in the word, but the most widely used and traded chemical is oil. When we talk about oil spills, how much oil are we talking about? Quite a lot:
- The United States uses about 700 million gallons of oil every day.
- The world uses nearly 3 billion gallons each day.
- The largest spill in the United States so far was the Exxon Valdez spill into Prince William Sound, Alaska in March 1989. An oil tanker ran aground to cause this spill of almost 11 million gallons of crude oil. While this was a big spill, it was actually only a small fraction–less than 2 percent–of what the United States uses in 1 day!
These big numbers are hard to relate to everyday life, so let’s make some comparisons. To better understand how much 11 million gallons of oil is, check the table below. It shows how many familiar rooms or buildings would be filled up by the approximate amount of oil spilled from the Exxon Valdez. For example, that oil would have filled up 9 school gyms or 430 classrooms.
|Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
|School Gymnasium (50′ * 50′ * 65′)
|Average House (40′ * 40′ * 8′)
|Average Classroom (20′ * 20′ * 8′)
|Average Living Room (12′ *18′ * 8′)
What do we use all this oil for?
You may not be aware of all the ways we use oil. We use it
- to fuel our cars, trucks, and buses, and to heat our houses.
- to lubricate machinery large and small, such as bicycles or printing presses.
- to make the asphalt we use to pave our roads.
- to make plastics, such as the toys we play with and the portable radios or CD players we listen to.
- to make medicines, ink, fertilizers, pesticides, paints, varnishes, and electricity.
How do spills happen?
Oil spills into rivers, bays, and the ocean are caused by accidents involving tankers, barges, pipelines, refineries, and storage facilities, usually while the oil is being transported to us, its users (as in the photo below, which shows a supertanker, the Amoco Cadiz, sinking off the coast of France in 1978).
Spills can be caused by
people making mistakes or being careless.
equipment breaking down.
natural disasters such as hurricanes.
deliberate acts by terrorists, countries at war, vandals, or illegal dumpers.
Then what happens?
Oil floats on salt water (the ocean) and usually floats on fresh water (rivers and lakes). Very heavy oil can sometimes sink in fresh water, but this happens very rarely. Oil usually spreads out rapidly across the water surface to form a thin layer that we call an oil slick. As the spreading process continues, the layer becomes thinner and thinner, finally becoming a very thin layer called a sheen, which often looks like a rainbow. (You may have seen sheens on roads or parking lots after a rain.)
Depending on the circumstances, oil spills can be very harmful to marine birds and mammals, and also can harm fish and shellfish. You may have seen dramatic pictures of oiled birds and sea otters that have been affected by oil spills. Oil destroys the insulating ability of fur-bearing mammals, such as sea otters, and the water-repelling abilities of a bird’s feathers, thus exposing these creatures to the harsh elements. Many birds and animals also ingest (swallow) oil when they try to clean themselves, which can poison them. Depending on just where and when a spill happens, from just a few up to hundreds or thousands of birds and mammals can be killed or injured.
Who takes care of the problem?
Once oil has spilled, any of various local, state, and Federal government agencies as well as volunteer organizations may respond to the incident, depending on who’s needed. People may use any of the following kinds of tools to clean up spilled oil:
- booms, which are floating barriers to oil (for example, a big boom may be placed around a tanker that is leaking oil, to collect the oil) .
- skimmers, which are boats that skim spilled oil from the water surface.
- sorbents, which are big sponges used to absorb oil.
- chemical dispersants and biological agents, which break down the oil into its chemical constituents.
- in-situ burning, which is a method of burning freshly-spilled oil, usually while it’s floating on the water.
- washing oil off beaches with either high-pressure or low-pressure hoses.
- vacuum trucks, which can vacuum spilled oil off of beaches or the water surface.
- shovels and road equipment, which are sometimes used to pick up oil or move oiled beach sand and gravel down to where it can be cleaned by being tumbled around in the waves.
Which methods and tools people choose depends on the circumstances of each event: the weather, the type and amount of oil spilled, how far away from shore the oil has spilled, whether or not people live in the area, what kinds of bird and animal habitats are in the area, and other factors. Different cleanup methods work on different types of beaches and with different kinds of oil. For example, road equipment works very well on sand beaches, but can’t be used in marshes or on beaches with big boulders or cobble (rounded stones that are larger than pebbles, but smaller than boulders).
People also may set up stations where they can clean and rehabilitate wildlife. Sometimes, people may decide not to response at all to a spill, because in some cases, responding isn’t helpful or even adds to the damage from the spill.
In the United States, depending on where the spill occurs, either the U.S. Coast Guard or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency takes charge of the spill response. They, in turn, often call on other agencies (NOAA and the Fish and Wildlife Service are often called) for help and information.
The goal of new Federal regulations is to prevent oil spills from happening. People who cause oil spills now must pay severe penalties, and the regulations also call for safer vessel design in the hopes of avoiding future spills. In the U.S., people who respond to oil spills must practice by conducting training drills, and people who manage vessels and facilities that store or transport oil must develop plans explaining how they would respond to a spill, so that they can respond effectively to a spill if they need to.
What about the rest of us?
Because oil and oil products in the environment can cause harm, we need to prevent problems when we can. For example, by avoiding dumping oil or oily waste into the sewer or garbage, we avoid polluting the environment we live in. Sometimes, we can find ways to avoid using oil in the first place: for example, we can bicycle, walk, or take the bus rather than taking a car to some places we need to go. When we use less oil, less needs to be transported, and there’s a lower risk of future oil spills. We should understand that it is because we rely on oil that we run the risk of oil spills. That means that all of us share both the responsibility for creating the problem of oil spills and the responsibility for finding ways to solve the problem.
The Characteristics Of Oil
Crude oil is made up of complex hydrocarbon compounds that range from light gasses to heavier tars and waxes. Oil is composed of thousands of compounds in varying quantities. No two crude oils are exactly alike because of the many different compositions.
The different physical and chemical properties of crude and refined oils are very important – they influence the physical and biological effects of an oil spill, the behavior of a slick and the effectiveness of clean-up operations. Some oils are far more harmful to the environment and more toxic than others
What do you want to find out? Write a statement that describes what you want to do. Use your observations and questions to write the statement.
The purpose of this project is to investigate, identify or discover methods of treating chemical spills from industries. We are focusing on industries because chemical spills by people and homes are minor amounts, but industries often deal with large amounts of chemicals. As you may have seen many industries are concentrated around rivers. The reason is that traditionally rivers have been the most convenient way for dumping industrial waste and spills. Also since oils are the most persistent and harmful type of spills, we will focus our study on oil spills.
When you think you know what variables may be involved, think about ways to change one at a time. If you change more than one at a time, you will not know what variable is causing your observation. Sometimes variables are linked and work together to cause something. At first, try to choose variables that you think act independently of each other.
Method of removing spill or cleaning contamination is an independent variable. Effectiveness of the applied method or the rate of removed spills is the dependent variable.
Based on your gathered information, make an educated guess about what types of things affect the system you are working with. Identifying variables is necessary before you can make a hypothesis.
My hypothesis is that the oil contaminated water can be pumped in large containers and clean water can be discharged from the bottom of the container (oil will accumulate at the top and can be drained from another exit close to the top of container).
If the contamination is in soil, we can wash the soil so the contamination will enter the water. We can then follow the same method to get clean water again.
Design an experiment to test each hypothesis. Make a step-by-step list of what you will do to answer each question. This list is called an experimental procedure. For an experiment to give answers you can trust, it must have a “control.” A control is an additional experimental trial or run. It is a separate experiment, done exactly like the others. The only difference is that no experimental variables are changed. A control is a neutral “reference point” for comparison that allows you to see what changing a variable does by comparing it to not changing anything. Dependable controls are sometimes very hard to develop. They can be the hardest part of a project. Without a control you cannot be sure that changing the variable causes your observations. A series of experiments that includes a control is called a “controlled experiment.”
Sample experiments proposed here are just a help for you to design your own experiments.
Experiment 1: Oil Floats and Spreads
In this experiment we observe and study the conditions of oil in water.
1. Get a large, clear glass bowl and some vegetable oil.
If you’d like, you can mix a little cocoa powder into the vegetable oil to make it show up better and look more like crude oil.
2. Fill the bowl with water to an inch or two below the rim. Place it on a table.
3. Pour a little oil on the water.
4. Now, watch what happens.
The oil, even a little drop, will spread out over the water surface and break up into many little blobs. This will happen very quickly.
All oils are not the same. Different oils, whether diesel for a truck or heating oil for a house or oil for an engine, all spread out at different rates.
Also, note that the oil floats. This seems a simple observation but it is very important. Since you have a glass bowl, you can see two layers, or phases: oil and water, which do not mix. You have probably seen this before in some bottles of salad dressing. In the bottle of dressing, just like in the bowl, the oil stays on the top and the water stays on the bottom.
When oil is spilled onto the ocean, because it stays on the top of the water in this same way, it can be pushed by the wind in whatever direction the wind is going. Wind, along with currents and tides, are the three main factors that affect the transportation of oil during an oil spill. We look at all three of these to predict where the oil might go and what it might hit.
Note: You can use your bowl of water and oil in an experiment testing how to clean oiled feathers.
Experiment 2: Cleaning Oiled Feathers
In this experiment, you’ll look at the way oil affects bird feathers and try out different cleanup methods to find out which works best.
- Clean, dry feathers (good places to find feathers are beaches, parks, and pet stores)
- Three bowls
- Vegetable oil
- Dish-washing detergent
- Hot and cold water (the hot water should be about the same temperature you’d use to wash dishes, and not too hot to put your hands in)
1. Take a look at the feathers you’ve collected, then try to answer the following questions:
- What kinds of water birds can you think of?
- Ducks, geese, and other waterfowl
- Gulls, puffins, and other seabirds
- Sandpipers and other shorebirds
- What kinds of things do water birds do?
- Swim on the water
- Dive into the water
- What do feathers do for water birds?
- Keep the bird warm.
- Waterproof the bird.
- Help them fly.
2. Get a bowl and some vegetable oil.
If you’d like, you can mix a little cocoa powder into the vegetable oil to make it show up better and look more like crude oil.
3. Fill the bowl with water to an inch or two below the rim. Pour some oil on the water. The oil will spread out over the surface of the water.
4. Dip some of your feathers into the oil on the water.
You’re imitating what happens when a bird lands on an oil slick on the ocean.
5. Take a look at the feathers now, then try to answer the following questions:
- What happened to the feathers when they got oiled?
- They got soggy.
- They got matted.
- They got heavier.
- How do you think this might affect a water bird wearing these feathers?
- Oiling makes it harder for the bird to stay warm.
- Oiling makes the bird less waterproof.
- Real, fresh oil is toxic, so it can poison the bird.
6. Now try three methods of cleaning feathers:
- Cold water washing. Put some cold water in a bowl, then try washing some of the oiled feathers in it. Watch what happens.
- Hot water washing. Put some hot water in a bowl, then try washing some of the oiled feathers in it. Watch what happens.
- Washing with detergent. Put some hot water and detergent in a bowl, then try washing some of the oiled feathers in it. Watch what happens.
Which method worked best? Imagine that you’re washing a real, live bird that has been oiled. What things would you need to think about? Which method would you choose to clean the bird?
You probably found that washing the feathers with hot water and detergent was the best way to remove the oil from the feathers. However, this actually isn’t the best method to use when you’re washing a live bird. When a bird has been coated with oil, it becomes weak, and it isn’t able to regulate its body temperature very well. Putting it in hot water when it’s in this condition can be dangerous for it. People cleaning oiled birds use water that’s at ambient temperature–the same temperature as the environment around the bird. They also make sure to keep the building where they’re washing the birds warm: this way, the birds don’t get too hot or too cold.
The materials for this experiment are all non-toxic. You can put them in the trash once you’ve finished your experiment.
Experiment 3: Sediment Penetration Exercise
Beaches are made up of sediments, which were deposited by the ocean. Sediments range from clay and mud, which are very fine-grained, to coarse-grained sand or gravel. This exercise demonstrates how lighter and heavier oils behave differently when spilled onto fine-grained, medium-grained, and coarse-grained sediment.
In oil spill response, differences among oils in whether and how they penetrate into different sediments is important. These differences affect our predictions of whether the oil is likely to remain on the surface if it hits the beach, or to penetrate to some degree into the beach sediment. As you can imagine, it’s much harder to clean up subsurface oil than oil that stays on the beach surface. When we expect spilled oil to penetrate into beach sediment, we know that it must be cleaned up as quickly as possible.
In this experiment, we use molasses to simulate a heavy oil, such as a fuel oil for ships, and mineral oil to simulate a lighter oil, such as a light crude or diesel oil.
- 3 wide-mouth containers
- measuring cup
- coarse-grained sand or gravel
- medium- to fine-grained sand
- clay or mud
- mineral oil
Note: You can perform this experiment using either wet or dry sediment, or you can run it twice–once with wet sediment and once with dry–and then compare your results.
- Fill each container about two-thirds full with one of the three sediment types.
- Press the bottom of a glass, jar, or paper cup into two places on the surface of the sediment to make two treatment areas in each container.
- Measure out equal volumes of molasses and mineral oil.
- Choose one of the containers. Pour the molasses into one of the treatment areas, and mineral oil into the other.
- Observe the immediate behavior of the liquids. Do they penetrate the sediment? How fast does this happen? What differences between the two liquids do you see?
- Repeat these steps for the other two containers, then compare.
You’ll probably find that the molasses penetrates very slowly, especially into the most fine-grained sediment (the clay or mud), while the mineral oil penetrates faster. You are also likely to find that the coarser the grain size of the sediment, the faster it is penetrated.
The materials for this experiment are all non-toxic, and can be disposed of in the trash once you’ve finished the experiment.
Do you want to try cleaning up an oil spill for yourself? This experiment will help you understand why it is such a difficult task. All of the tools you will need are environmentally friendly and easy to find.
- one 28 cm x 19 cm x 4 cm clear glass baking dish (or equivalent)
- blue food coloring
- 12 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 8 tbsp. pure cocoa powder
- 1 tsp. table salt
- a tablespoon
- a teaspoon
- 5 popsicle sticks
- a coffee mug
- sorbents (paper towel, cotton balls, rag, string, nylon pot scrubber, sponge, styrofoam cup, garden peat moss, Shredded Wheat,)
- 1 squirt of liquid dishwashing detergent
- tweezers or tongs
- bird feathers (available at a pet store).
To prepare the fresh water:
- Fill baking dish with cold tap water to within 1 cm of rim.
- Add 5-6 drops of food dye.
- Mix dye and water with a stirring stick.
- Let solution settle.
- Answer question 1 in Observations.
To simulate crude oil:
- Place 3 tbsp. of vegetable oil in mug.
- Add 2 tbsp. of cocoa powder.
- Mix cocoa powder and oil thoroughly with a popsicle stick.
To contaminate fresh water:
- Very slowly pour simulated crude oil from a height of 1 cm onto the top of the fresh water dish. If you pour the oil too quickly, the experiment won’t work – start over!
- Answer question 2 in Observations.
- Wait 3 minutes.
- Do you want to change your answer to question 2 in Observations?
To test the sorbents:
- Place a small sorbent sample into the centre top of the contaminated fresh water.
- Answer questions 3, 4, 5 and 6 in Observations.
- Remove sorbent with tweezers or tongs.
- Repeat step 1 with other sorbent samples.
- Answer questions 7, 8, 9 and 10 in Observations.
- Clean out contaminated fresh water.
- Prepare new simulated fresh water following instructions above.
- Add detergent to the oil-contaminated freshwater.
- Answer questions 11, 12 and 13 in Observations.
To determine how oil effects feathers:
- Dip feather into oil-contaminated fresh water.
- Answer questions 14 and 15 in Observations.
Repeat all of the above procedures substituting an ocean for the fresh water. To prepare the ocean, follow the fresh water procedures except add 1 tsp. of salt and mix it with the water before step 2. At the end of the ocean experiments, answer question 16 in Observations.
- How is the fresh water/ocean different from tap water?
- What happened to the oil when you dropped it on the fresh water/ocean? Did it sink? Float? Mix in?
- How much oil did the sorbent clean up? How quickly? (After you remove the sorbent, you may squeeze it to remove the absorbed oil and water and collect them in a test tube or a measuring cylinder. In this way you can determine the amount of absorbed oil by volume or by weight).
- Does the sorbent pick up water too? If so, how can you tell?
- Does the sorbent sink or float?
- What is the condition of the contaminated sorbent?
- How would you pick up the oil-contaminated material in a “real” oil spill in fresh water/the ocean?
- How would you dispose of the oil-contaminated material in a “real” oil spill?
- Of the sorbants you tests, which one worked the fastest? the best?
- What other materials could you use as sorbents?
- What happened when the detergent was added to the contaimnated fresh water/ocean?
- Where would the oil go in “real” fresh water/ocean after a dispersant (like the dishwashing detergent) is used?
- How clean is the fresh water/ocean now that it has dishwashing liquid in it?
- What happens when a feather gets oil on it?
- How might an oiled feather affect a bird?
- Are the results of the experiment different when you use fresh water instead of an ocean?
In this experiment we will attempt to separate oil from water.
- Transfer your oil-water mixture to a narrow and tall container such as a graduated cylinder.
- Wait for a few minutes to see if the oil and water are separated in two different layers.
- Use a pipette to extract some oil from the middle of top layer.
- Use another pipette to extract some water from the middle of bottom level.
- Observe and examine the oil and water that you have extracted to see if they are clean.
Materials and Equipment:
List of material can be extracted from the experiment section and depends on your final experiment design.
Results of Experiment (Observation):
Experiments are often done in series. A series of experiments can be done by changing one variable a different amount each time. A series of experiments is made up of separate experimental “runs.” During each run you make a measurement of how much the variable affected the system under study. For each run, a different amount of change in the variable is used. This produces a different amount of response in the system. You measure this response, or record data, in a table for this purpose. This is considered “raw data” since it has not been processed or interpreted yet. When raw data gets processed mathematically, for example, it becomes results.
This project does not require any calculations. However if you do any calculation, make sure to write them in your report.
Summary of Results:
Summarize what happened. This can be in the form of a table of processed numerical data, or graphs. It could also be a written statement of what occurred during experiments.
It is from calculations using recorded data that tables and graphs are made. Studying tables and graphs, we can see trends that tell us how different variables cause our observations. Based on these trends, we can draw conclusions about the system under study. These conclusions help us confirm or deny our original hypothesis. Often, mathematical equations can be made from graphs. These equations allow us to predict how a change will affect the system without the need to do additional experiments. Advanced levels of experimental science rely heavily on graphical and mathematical analysis of data. At this level, science becomes even more interesting and powerful.
Using the trends in your experimental data and your experimental observations, try to answer your original questions. Is your hypothesis correct? Now is the time to pull together what happened, and assess the experiments you did.
Related Questions & Answers:
What you have learned may allow you to answer other questions. Many questions are related. Several new questions may have occurred to you while doing experiments. You may now be able to understand or verify things that you discovered when gathering information for the project. Questions lead to more questions, which lead to additional hypothesis that need to be tested.
If you did not observe anything different than what happened with your control, the variable you changed may not affect the system you are investigating. If you did not observe a consistent, reproducible trend in your series of experimental runs there may be experimental errors affecting your results. The first thing to check is how you are making your measurements. Is the measurement method questionable or unreliable? Maybe you are reading a scale incorrectly, or maybe the measuring instrument is working erratically.
If you determine that experimental errors are influencing your results, carefully rethink the design of your experiments. Review each step of the procedure to find sources of potential errors. If possible, have a scientist review the procedure with you. Sometimes the designer of an experiment can miss the obvious.
List of References
Any process that causes one substance to penetrate the inside of another substance. In the case of oil spill clean-up, oil is drawn into porous sorbent materials.
The process that causes one substance to be attracted to and stick to the surface of another substance, without actually penetrating its surface.
After oil is removed, a ship’s tanks are cleaned. This process is known as bilge washing. It used to be common to clean the tanks using jets spraying seawater. The jets washed the oil residue from the tanks, resulting in a mixture of oil and water that collected at the bottom of the tank, and was then pumped overboard. In some cases, the mixture of oil and water was stored in tanks and re-used as the cleaning solution. Current practice is to use crude oil as the cleaning solution to remove the oil residue from the tank walls. The oil residue and the cleaning solution are then transferred to the load being delivered.
The natural process of decomposition by bacteria and other living organisms.
The process of accelerating the rate of natural bio-degradation of hydrocarbons by adding fertilizer to provide nitrogen and phosphorus. Following a spill, there are too few of these chemicals compared with the amount of hydrocarbons.
To break up into component parts or elements.
A raised bank constructed to prevent flooding.
Offshore blowouts result from gas, or gas and oil escaping out of control under high pressure from subsurface reservoirs during drilling or production. Oil may be released either at the water surface or on the sea bottom, depending on the type of drilling rig being used, and other factors. Every modern rig has a set of large control valves, known as blowout preventers, to stop the flow of oil, gas and other well fluids if problems occur during drilling.
A porous material has openings or cavities that can be penetrated by another substance.
A sedimentary basin is a large depression in the Earth’s crust, where sediment (weathered rock debris and chemical precipitates) has accumulated. There are 40 basins in Canada, covering 47 percent of the land surface and continental slopes. Not all of them have potential for hydrocarbons.
There are a number of factors that influence whether an area is considered sensitive. These include: the use of area by people (fishing, beach); the presence of habitats important to marine life for spawning, feeding or migration and the presence of rare or endangered species.
Sensitivity maps identify biological and human resources at risk from an oil spill. They can also outline spill response countermeasures and priorities for protective measures. These maps show shoreline habitats, identify environmentally sensitive biological resources such as fish, birds and associated shore or marine mammals, and show recreational beaches, marina sites or locations of archaeological significance.
The common term used to describe a film of oil on the water surface.
A black or brown hydrocarbon material that ranges in consistency from a heavy liquid to a solid.
A facility where ships land to load, transfer or unload their cargo.
Any of a class of pliable substances of plant, animal, mineral or synthetic origin. Waxes generally consist of long-chain organic compounds. Waxes are included in the residue formed following the refining of crude oil.