Oil Spills Damage Beaches, Marshlands and Fragile Marine Ecosystems
Oil spilled by damaged tankers, pipelines or offshore oil rigs coats everything it touches and becomes an unwelcome but long-term part of every ecosystem it enters.
When an oil slick from a large oil spill reaches the beach, the oil coats and clings to every rock and grain of sand. If the oil washes into coastal marshes, mangrove forests or other wetlands, fibrous plants and grasses absorb the oil, which can damage the plants and make the whole area unsuitable as wildlife habitat.
When it comes to mixing oil and water, oceans suffer from far more than an occasional devastating spill. Disasters make headlines, but hundreds of millions of gallons of oil quietly end up in the seas every year, mostly from non-accidental sources .
The graph below shows how many millions of gallons of oil each source puts into the oceans worldwide each year
Down the Drain: 363 Million Gallons
- Used engine oil can end up in waterways. An average oil change uses five quarts; one change can contaminate a million gallons of fresh water. Much oil in runoff from land and municipal and industrial wastes ends up in the oceans. 363 million gallons
Road runoff adds up
Every year oily road runoff from a city of 5 million could contain as much oil as one large tanker spill .
Routine Maintenance: 137 Million Gallons
- Every year, bilge cleaning and other ship operations release millions of gallons of oil into navigable waters, in thousands of discharges of just a few gallons each. 137 million gallons
Up in Smoke: 92 Million Gallons
- Air pollution, mainly from cars and industry, places hundreds of tons of hydrocarbons into the oceans each year. Particles settle, and rain washes hydrocarbons from the air into the oceans .
Natural Seeps: 62 Million Gallons
- Some ocean oil "pollution" is natural. Seepage from the ocean bottom and eroding sedimentary rocks releases oil.
Big Spills: 37 Million Gallons
- Only about 5 percent of oil pollution in oceans is due to major tanker accidents, but one big spill can disrupt sea and shore life for miles . 37 million gallons