Oil spills are dangerous. Even a minor oil spill accident can harm every component of our vast ecosystem, including the marine ecosystem, wildlife, plants, human health, and the environment. Although measures are taken immediately, it takes years for things to return to normal.
But who is responsible for these potentially life-threatening accidents?
The blame for these accidents should be shared by every individual walking on this planet. We need oil to run our vehicles, transport goods in airplanes, and heat and light our homes. Large industries use petroleum as a raw material to make products like plastic, solvents, polyurethanes, and many other end-user goods. To satiate our growing needs, oil and petroleum industries extract oil from natural reservoirs and transport it.
Any negligence observed during this complicated procedure results in oil spill accidents that wreak havoc on the environment. Generally, spills happen due to accidents involving barges, tankers, refineries, pipelines, storage facilities, equipment breaking, and human error.
Who is responsible for spill prevention?
Every individual or organization associated with the production, transportation, and use of oil and petroleum is responsible for spill prevention.
Fortunately, the organizations are well aware of their responsibilities and use emergency planning and response planning models to deal with oil spill accidents.
Let us introduce you to some well-recognized oil spill response planning models that aim at protecting the entire ecosystem from the harmful effects of spilling these hazardous substances. Take a look:
Area contingency plan
The party responsible for spilling is responsible for oil spill cleanup. The operators of the spill source, be it a pipeline, refinery, or tanker ship, are bound to present a formal response plan, saying that they have the resources and systems ready to take quick action in the event of oil spills.
As cleaning up is a complicated process, these organizations team up with specialized cleanup organizations, equipped with cleanup solutions, like filtration fabric, skimmers, absorbent booms and pads, dispersant application systems, oil containment boom, portable incinerators, etc., to deal with these accidents.
Organizations dealing with spill accidents use technology like ArrowHead software analytics to enhance their response planning efforts. These tools offer real-time monitoring, data integration, predictive analytics, resource allocation, environmental impact assessment, regulatory compliance support, communication and collaboration, and data storage capabilities.
Emergency response agencies that come under local governments also play a part in response planning.
They coordinate and communicate among various local stakeholders, including fire departments, police, public health agencies, and environmental authorities, ensuring seamless collaboration during an oil spill response. They can rapidly deploy local resources, such as personnel, equipment, and materials needed for containment, cleanup, and public safety protection.
Local agencies establish incident command centers to efficiently manage the response operation, serving as hubs for decision-making, information dissemination, and resource allocation. Effective coordination within an incident command structure is essential for a well-organized response.
Local government agencies also enforce local regulations and ordinances related to oil spill response and environmental protection, ensuring that response activities comply with legal requirements and safety standards. They may conduct on-site environmental assessments to evaluate the spill’s impact on ecosystems, water bodies, and wildlife, informing response strategies to minimize environmental damage.
Additionally, they assess potential health risks associated with the spill and guide on protecting public health, including monitoring air and water quality and advising on the safety of locally caught seafood.
Net Environmental Benefit Analysis (NEBA)
NEBA is a procedure adopted by the response community to analyze the most effective options used to minimize the harmful impact of oil spill accidents on the environment and humans.
The process entails determining potential spill scenarios and the potential impact of spills on the community and environment.
The team then selects the best response options that could go a long way in minimizing the impact of potential spills on the assets.
The team also evaluates societal impacts and safety concerns and then selects effective response tools.
National Response System
The National Response Team comprises 16 federal agencies that respond to spill situations. These agencies, along with state agencies under RRT (Regional Response Teams), review the Area Contingency Plans yearly and optimize the plan by adding additional resources.
The U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are a part of the National Response Team at the federal level. A representative from any of these agencies is appointed a Federal On-Scene Coordinator at a local level.
FOSC is responsible for monitoring the cleanup activities of the organizations during the events of spills. FOSC also works as a bridge between local authorities and state as well as Federal governments and coordinates useful resources.
In cases where the organization is inefficient or unwilling to drive cleanup, FOSC can take charge.
The bottom line
The ill-effects of oil spill accidents last for years. Adopting proactive measures is the only way of averting the danger.
With proper oil spill response planning, every party involved in the oil and petroleum business, along with state and federal authorities, can protect the environment and humans from terrible oil spill accidents.