oil spill

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An accidental leakage of oil from a container such as a storage tank, oil tanker, or oil pipeline, which causes pollution of the surrounding area. Oil spills at sea can causes extensive ecological and environmental damage. Toxic chemicals leach out from the oil and contaminate the surrounding water, poisoning sea life around and below the spill. Light oils can float freely on the ocean surface, and be dispersed over a wide area. Heavy oils sometimes form globules (small spherical lumps) which sink to the sea‐bed and poison plants and animals that live there. When an oil slick drifts or is blown towards the coast it can seriously pollute the shore, fouling beaches and killing all shore life. The oil clogs up the feathers of birds, making it impossible for them to fly or even swim. Most other coastal creatures are suffocated by the oil. Procedures that are used to control and remove oil slicks include containment, absorption, and dispersal. See also Exxon Valdez.

Subjects: Environmental Science.

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