Ways of reducing the effects of Oil spills


oil-birdphoto by : World environment (2010)

Oil spills pose major threats to human and wildlife. Loss of habitat and wildlife (death of animals, destruction of habitat and altered feeding relationships).Exposure of the oil spill to animals can lead to the consumption of contaminated food which is detrimental to human health. Affects trade (exportation of seafood and trade among local business men). Loss of livelihood (as it is a fisherman’s man source of income). Negative impacts on the economy such as a  reduction in tourism. It also causes reduction in the value of property, and there is long term interruption of fishing activities.

Some methods that can be introduced to mitigate the effects of oil spills can be the initiation of oil eating microbes (archaea) ,this is the simplest, fastest and most effective remedy. The oil eating capabilities of various strains of archaea can clean both soils and waterways from a wide variety of environmental toxins, including oil spills of any size, both on land and in the ocean.

Measures such as effective monitoring of oil and gas facilities (Petrotrin) can be taken, it was reported one of the main pipelines that leaked had not been checked for approximately fifteen years. In addition to this, The Environmental Management Authority, Petrotrin Health and Safety Department, neighborhood   watch groups and Regional Corporations can all come together in mitigating such events like this in the future. Clear polices for repairs and maintenance of facilities (oil and gas)  should be put in place. It is better to be proactive as opposed to being reactive. There can be networking with foreign agencies and governments for implementation of the best practices. Government, Universities and other schools play a role in educating the population about the environment.

An Oil spill could be a disaster once, if proper measures are adopted history doesn’t have to repeat itself.


Effects of Oil Spills on Land


Photo by : CBC (2012)oil spill.jpg

When an oil spill occurs on land, it prevents the absorption of water by the soil, as we know water and oil is immiscible,oil spills on agricultural locations and grasslands have the effect of choking off plant life. When an oil spill occurs in these environments, the main priority are to prevent the oil from leeching into groundwater and from entering groundwater supplies as this can be detrimental to the human population and also to animals.

An oil spill on the land may penetrate underground and move downward reaching eventually the groundwater. However, such vertical movement may be slowed done if not prevented by the presence of paved surfaces, natural clay layers or other natural or anthropogenic barriers. Oil may also move laterally along less permeable layers (including surface pavements) or with groundwater and surface waters, eventually causing underground pollution.

Berms and trenches can be used to contain an oil spill, as long as their use does not allow the oil to leach into the soil. Where there is no danger to the water table, the contaminated area can be flooded, which “floats” the oil or moves it to the water’s surface, as it is typically lighter than water. This technique allows for recovery via vacuums and skimmers. Other possible techniques include mechanical removal of contaminated soil , also bioremediation.

These negative effects are due to the environmental discharge of various organic compounds that make up crude oil and oil distillate products, the majority of which include various individual hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons are made exclusively from carbon and hydrogen atoms which bind together in various ways, resulting in paraffins (or normal alkanes), isoparaffins (isoalkanes), aromatics (such as benzene or various PAHs), cycloalkanes and unsaturated alkanes (alkenes and alkanes). Other individual compounds that are present in crude oil and oil discharges include (apart from carbon and hydrogen) sulfur, nitrogen and/or oxygen atoms.

Oil spills are all man made, and it is up to us to prevent such disasters from taking place. Be sure to come back next week for more information on oil spills!

References :


Effects of Oil Spills on Humans


There can be a variety of impacts of human health from oil spills, they include indirect and direct contact with the spill.

The main effect include direct exposure to the oil spill. When an oil spill occurs near to where people work and live, people directly come into contact with breathing in the gaseous oil compounds and compounds absorbed by particulate matter (it is dispersed through air).  Another way of directly affecting humans may include exposure to activities related to the contaminated  ground (soil) and through absorption of skin when touching spilled material. This exposure of oil spills to humans can lead to  minor illnesses  to serious conditions, possibly cancer in some instances.

Indirect exposure of oil spills relate to consumption of food and contaminated water, a prime example is the consumption of fish that has been in contact with an oil spill polluted environment.  Since oil components has the ability to bio accumulate in living organisms, the fish absorbs the oil in its body without being capable of excrete it since there may be already high concentrations in the surrounding water. Through the consumption of these fish and other sea food that has been contaminated, humans may be exposed to higher concentrations oil components than in the surrounding environment when compared to ingestion of contaminated water or bathing in polluted water. This can be very detrimental to human life.

When an oil spill occurs it causes long term interruption of activities such as fishing, this directly impacts fishermen as this is their livelihood and only source of income, it also affects business which can be trading among business men and also exportation of seafood  products, which is a negative human and economic impact. It also causes reduction in tourism, and also reduction in the value of property, this applies to properties directly  affected by the oil spill but also all properties in that  demographic circumference that is exposed to this oil spill pollution, and also to those that has the risk of becoming polluted.

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Economic Effects of Oil Spills



Apart from revenue from oil and gas, Trinidad also depends heavily on Tourism.After an oil spill, high economic loss is experienced by persons dependent on coastal resources, clean up activities is also very costly. When an oil spill occurs, fisheries and tourism sectors are where the greatest impacts are felt. Business activities are affected, many sectors fall victim to loss of earnings.

An oil spill disrupts activities such as fishing ,swimming ,boating and diving .These activities are all part of tourism, normal activities and business (trade of seafood) will resume as long as the shorelines are clean. The public’s perception of the calamity of an oil spill  can also affect tourism negatively, since tourism dependent businesses such as hotels , tour operations and their suppliers are all interconnected ,they would collectively experience losses.

Oil spills affects fisheries and mariculture resources negatively since contamination of the water would directly disrupt business activities and quality of yields being produced, the yields would also decreased since access to some of these fishing sites would be impeded.  Some factors that could determine the extent to which the oil spill would impact the economy  are , the type of business and fishing activity affected, the characteristics of the spilled oil, the physical (environmental) characteristics of the marine environment and coast and the extent to which market confidence in the quality of seafood being produced from the affected is also an important factor.

Furthermore, industries that heavily rely on seawater for operations can be at high risks if intakes are close  to the surface. If these industrial plants are responsible for meeting needs on a national scale, the disruptions can be far reaching.

It is impossible to predict how long after an oil spill  economic impacts  would persist because physical impacts would persist until the vast majority of oil has been removed by cleanup operations. In a situation where fisheries and tourism is concerned, the impacts may be more long lived due to negative publicity and the public’s perceptions. A thorough regularly exercised contingency plan , taking into consideration the economic profile of a particular area would assist in formulating proper measures to mitigate the economic effects of an oil spill.

Thank you for coming back to the blog! I hope you come again next week for more interesting information on Oil spills. Any questions would be entertained in the comments section ! 🙂

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Effects of Oil Spill on Wildlife and Habitat



In 2010, The Deepwater Horizon which occurred in the Gulf of Mexico was the biggest oil spill recorded in history. It left huge footprints on the environment. In late 2015 , the federal government released a report which entails an in-depth study, the report is known as the Programmatic Damage Assessment and Restoration plan .

The Oil spill impacted several animals , a large amount of the 21 species of dolphins and whales demonstrated injuries to some extent. The number of Bottlenose dolphins in Barataria Bay and the  Mississippi Sound , two places that were specifically affected by the oil spill ,are expected to decline by half their population, studies determined that injuries to the dolphins were as a result of the oil spill. Another says that the Spinner dolphin (another species of dolphin) would take approximately over one hundred years for it’s numbers to recover.

Scientists estimated that approximately 167,000 sea turtles were killed during the disaster, heavy oil affected quarter of the Sargassum (a type of floating seaweed) in the northern Gulf. Sargassum is plays an instrumental role in the life of a turtle since it is an important habitat for juvenile turtles.

Oil is toxic to many species of larval which causes deformation and death, the federal study estimates that between two-five million larval fish died during the oil spill. In 2011 high yields of fish that has been caught showed that they had oil in their livers, rotting fins and unusual lesions.

Oil can destroy the insulating ability of fur bearing animals, such as sea otters and water repellency of bird’s feathers, this in turn exposes these organisms to harsh elements. Birds and mammals that no longer has the ability to repel water and insulate cold water can die from hypothermia. Many birds and animals also ingest oil  whilst trying to clean theirself  which is extremely toxic to their health. When fishes come into contact with oil , it can have various impacts such as , reduced growth, enlarged livers , changes in heart and respiration rates, reproduction impairment and fin erosion, they also kill eggs and larval survival.

At least 93 species of birds  were exposed to oil, the loss of these birds would have a harmful effect on food webs in the Gulf and the ecosystem in general. Scientists predict that habitats at the bottom of the Gulf’s floor could take anywhere from a couple decades to one hundred years to fully recover. A large portion of the habitats in the Gulf floor were affected, an estimated 1,200 square miles (significant amounts of oil were deposited on the ocean’s floor). The oil spill also caused coastal erosion, oil and response efforts killed as many as 8.3 billion oysters, this mass loss have put the sustainability of oysters in the Gulf of Mexico. Oil Spills indeed has drastic effects on wildlife and their habitat.

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Aftermath of an Oil spill


Trinidad’s state owned oil company Petrotrin were involved in a series of eleven oil spills over the period of December 17 – December 29 in 2013. It was reported that oil lines ruptured at the Gulf of Paria near the company’s Pointe-a-Pierre refinery. Initially it was reported as a single oil spill near the southwestern town of La Brea (the country’s capital for the oil and gas sector)by the end of the month , 10 more oil spills occurred. It is deemed to this day as the largest oil spill in the history of Trinidad and Tobago. Petrotrin has been facing scrutiny due to a report that revealed the pipeline may not have been inspected in over seventeen years. The company was subsequently fined $20 million by the Environmental Management Authority.

So what happened as a consequence of this Oil spill? Approximately 7,000 barrels of oil was leaked into water leaving hundreds of dead fish scattered upon the shoreline, oil lining near the roots of mangrove trees were also visible. Up to five months after the oil spill fish carcasses were still being washed upon the shore.

What causes this mass amount of dead fish ?  Oil spills heavily pollute the water, it is darkly colored, this blocks the penetration of light to aquatic plants which uses to sunlight for photosynthesis to create their own food to sustain life, when this light is absent, this highly hinders their ability to do so.  The plants which  produces oxygen and absorbs carbon dioxide and ammonia that the fish generates would no longer be alive, there would be decreased oxygen levels in the water , the fishes which depended on these plants lives are now in jeopardy , they will now be starved of oxygen and will now cannot successfully respire, this will cause a huge strain on the organism ,this  would alter normal behavioral patterns and functions the fish would perform , and when they are eventually pushed beyond their tolerance range, which would lead to death of the organism (fishes) . All living organisms need oxygen to sustain life.

This oil spill has not only affected the ecosystem and wildlife feeding relationships but it also affected persons who reside in the  southwestern peninsula town of La Brea near the Gulf of Paria who uses fishing as a source of income and livelihood. This was not the first time dead fish carcasses were seen here, as it was previously spotted in 2010 after the DEEPWATER HORIZON OILSPILL  of 2010 which was regarded as the worst marine oil spill in history. The only way to mitigate such large scale fish kills is to stop the oil leak as soon as possible and to make clean up efforts the prime concern.

For more reading about the Petrotrin Oil spill at the Gulf of Paria , please check

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First blog post : Introduction

Hi , My name is Tariq Ali and I am currently a year one Environmental Science and Sustainable Technology student at the University of the West Indies. Since I was old enough understand what the word “marine” meant I instantly acquired a passion for the marine environment. At CAPE level I did Chemistry , Biology and Environmental Science. Environmental Science was  my favourite subject during my two years of CAPE. My  fascination for the environment together with the subjects I did for CAPE leaned me into this direction where dealing with the environment would be my ultimate goal.

Growing up in the twin island of Trinidad and Tobago, which is situated off the northern edge of the South American mainland lying just eleven kilometres off the coast of  north eastern Venezuela , pollution of the environment in all aspects , may it be air ,water and land pollution has always been an ongoing issue. The Gulf of Paria which would be  one of the main points of interest for my blog is one of the three main water bodies surrounding Trinidad, the other two being the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. My passion for the environment has inspired me to express my concerns on the degradation of marine life, may it be flora and fauna which is vital to man’s existence. I will use this blog as a medium in which I will help sensitize the causes, effects and solutions to others about this ever growing problem.