Scientific advancements in oil spill containment

The United States Coast Guard recently reported that an innovative sub surface oil containment and recovery system, installed in April 2019 over a damaged oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico, is successfully preventing more than 1,000 gallons of oil per day from entering the environment. Scientific research and lessons learned following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill have allowed the development of unique oil spill response systems such as this to help protect the maritime environment from future threats.

In 2004 during Hurricane Ivan the Taylor Energy Mississippi Canyon 20 (MC20) oil platform toppled creating an ongoing flow of oil into the Northern Gulf of Mexico. Scientists from multiple government agencies and academic institutions, conducted cutting-edge studies that determined the location, source, and amount of oil and gas emitting from the site.

Utilizing remote sensing technologies such as drones, satellites, and underwater vehicles in combination with on-site in-situ sampling and chemical analysis, scientists were better able to characterize the oil release.

Two separate studies conducted in 2017 determined that the oil and gas were discharging from multiple plumes in a discrete location rather than over a wide area. In 2018, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration undertook a follow-up study to determine the chemical characterization of the release, and to generate a flowrate (amount of oil and gas spilling in a given period of time) estimate for the site.

These studies helped determine that oil was leaking from the damaged infrastructure and could be contained, and that more than 1,000 gallons of oil per day was being released. This was substantially greater than the previously asserted 3-5 gallons per day.

The United States Coast Guard assumed partial control of the Taylor Energy oil spill response after repeated past attempts failed to stop, or contain, the flow of oil in the years since the platform with 25 producing wells were toppled and buried in sediment.

The Coast Guard, with support from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, oversaw the design, installation and operation of a Rapid Response Solution (RRS) subsurface system designed by the Louisiana based Couvillon Group.

The containment and collection system was developed and implemented in only 5 months in order to quickly stem the flow of oil. The system has recovered more than 375,000 gallons of oil since it was installed. Environmental protection continues, with the Coast Guard overseeing continuous oil collection and containment system maintenance.

These scientific research was a collaborative efforts of the inter-agency team of oil spill responders and scientific experts. The Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will continue to support the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement efforts to ensure that the Taylor Energy wells are properly plugged and a permanent solution is reached.

Oil Spill Dispersants Market Surpass $23.6 Billion By 2026

According to a recent market report by Acumen Research Consulting, the global Oil Spill Dispersants market size is estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate above 3 % over the forecast time frame and reach the market value around USD 23.6 billion by 2026.

The term oil spill is a common term used in the contamination, by accident or human error, of water, land or earth by oil pouring or release. Oil sources are distributed throughout the world, and are drilled both onshore and offshore. Since oil is an essential source of energy, it is very important that oil is distributed and transported consistently. Oil is mainly transported by seaside vessels and land pipelines. Most accidents occur during the shipment of oil, transport and pipeline breakages or during land boiling. Small-scale oil spills take place regularly and can be easily and quickly controlled.

Dispersants contain detergents which help break oil into small droplets that can become diluted in the ocean. They also contain an organic solvent that helps the detergents mix with both the oil and water (Credit: Natalie Renier, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

The market is mainly driven by frequent oil spills and the crucial importance of reducing the after effects on the environment of oil spills. These dispersants work in steady weather, since the efficiency of dispersants is reduced by high tides. Such limitations of oil discharges are the main restrictive factors on the global market for oil discharges.

The growth of the market of petroleum discharges depends directly on frequency, duration and volume of the oil discharges. Since the last decade, there has been a decrease of large oil spills every year, but very frequent small-scale oil spills are mainly driving the market for oil spills. Furthermore, a consistent selection of new petroleum resources and new oil plants will further boost the growth of the petroleum spill market. Another driving factor for the global market for oil spills is stringent government rules and penalties for reinforcing the response to oil spill.

Application Stance

The market share of offshore oil dispersant applications for the application segment was more than 70% in 2017. Similarly, it is estimated that the onshore application sector will grow steadily as newly identified onshore oil sources and frequent oil spills occur during transport or drilling of the oil. Onshore petroleum production accounts for 70 percent, which is projected to increase in the coming years. The demand for oil spill dissipators in onshore spill areas will be further increased.

Asia-Pacific Hold the prominent Share in the market

Geographically speaking, Asia Pacific will lead the global market for oil spillers driven by increased oil demand in the region and increased production pressures on petroleum companies to explore further existing offshore and onshore petroleum sources. Such explorations are certainly expected to have some incidents due to failure or human error in technology / equipment. Middle East & Africa is similar to the Asia-Pacific region, and a major part of the world’s oil demand is made of it. Global financial, trade and political pressures in terms of oil production and demand will certainly compel oil companies to take risks as they explore new petroleum sources.

ACME Environmental is Likely to Continue to Lead the Global Oil Spill Dispersants Market

The Oil Spill Dispersants market is consolidated with large number of manufacturers. The company profiling of key players in the market includes major business strategies, company overview and revenues. The key players of the market are ACME Environmental, Inc., Blue Ocean Tackle, Inc, Canadyne Technologies, Canadyne Technologies, Chemtex, Inc., and Desmi A/S, Blue Ocean Tackle, Inc, Inc, Chemtex, Inc., and Desmi A/S.

Diesel Fuel Spilled of the Coast of British Columbia

The Canadian Coast Guard recently confirmed that 4,500 litres of diesel fuel was spilled on April 22nd in Haida Gwaii inlet off the coast of British Columbia.

In a statement, a coast guard spokesperson said that Haida Gwaii-based company Taan Forest was responsible for the spill in Dinan Bay, which connects to Masset Inlet.

The incident happened sometime between midnight and 5 a.m. P.T. on April 29th, a valve feeding diesel to the electrical generator failed on the Toba Barge owned by Taan Forest. Consequently, an estimated 4500 liters of diesel leaked onto the deck of the barge and into the ocean near the dryland sort.

Initial estimates from a National Aerial Surveillance Program (NASP) overflight found 1900L on the water, with over 50% evaporating and dissipating within the first 24 hours.

A statement from the company on said a valve feeding diesel into an electrical generator failed on its Toba Barge and spilled diesel onto the deck. “Consequently, an estimated 4,500 litres of diesel leaked onto the deck of the barge and into the ocean near the dry land sort,” the statement said.

Taan Forest said the spill was near the mouth of the bay and because diesel is “non-persistent” it dissipates rapidly. Taan Forest said booms and sorbent pads had been deployed as soon as the spill was discovered.

Following three days of intense spill response, clean-up efforts were then directed to shoreline monitoring and environmental sampling.  As of April 25, no diesel has been observed on the water with much of the spill dissipating, evaporating and being recovered by response crews. All deployed spill response gear has been collected for disposal in compliance with the Waste Management Plan.

The company made the commitment to continue sampling water, soil, and marine life to assess impacts and identify any further requirements for clean-up efforts.

The most recent incident shows the difference that local training and equipment can make in responding to spills. In this case, the Council of the Haida Nation said that they have been building up local capacity and are more prepared than they would have been in the past.

A virtual Unified Command (UC) continues to oversee the incident. UC includes representatives from HaiCo (Taan Forest), the Council of the Haida Nation, Canadian Coast Guard, and BC Ministry of Environment. Unified Command is also supported by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Environment and Climate Change Canada. Due to Coronavirus (COVID19), on-island resources are being utilized on the ground and all meetings are occurring via teleconference.

Tritium Spill at Nuclear Power Plant in Ontario

As acknowledged by Bruce Power, there was a spill of 20-litres of heavy water containing radioactive tritium at the Bruce Nuclear Power plant near Kincardine, Ontario on March 28th.

Staff at Bruce Power Unit B responded to a release of approximately 20 litres of heavy water in Unit 6 which has been shut down since Jan. 17 for Major Component Replacement. The spill occurred when crews were flushing a system as part of layup activities for the unit.

Heavy water from the reactor contains levels of tritium, and station staff followed their procedures to promptly stop the spill and safely clean it up, including assembling Bruce B employees away from the affected area while the cleanup occurred. Barriers were established to restrict personnel and tritium levels monitored by station monitoring equipment and staff.

Representation of a Tritium atom

There have been no adverse impacts to our employees, the environment or the public. An investigation to determine the cause of the event is underway and once complete, steps will be taken to implement any lessons learned.

Heavy water is essential to the operation of Canada’s CANDU nuclear power reactors; used as both a moderator and a heat transfer agent. Heavy water is chemically the same as regular (light) water, but with the two hydrogen atoms (as in H2O) replaced with deuterium atoms (hence the symbol D2O). Deuterium is an isotope of hydrogen; it has one extra neutron.

Tritium is a radioactive form, or “isotope”, of hydrogen. It has two neutrons where regular hydrogen does not have any, which makes tritium unstable and therefore radioactive.  It is produced as a by-product of nuclear reactors.

Bruce Power is Canada’s only private sector nuclear generator, annually producing 30 per cent of Ontario’s power.  The power plant in Kincardine, along the eastern shores of Lake Huron, also produces medical isotopes that are used to keep medical equipment sterilized.

 

A Call to Keep Workers Safer When Transferring Flammable and Combustible Liquids

Written by Nancy Westcott, President of GoatThroat Pumps

Every day industrial workers transfer potentially hazardous chemicals, such as solvents, acetones, lubricants, cleansers, and acids, from large drums into smaller containers, or into machinery.  Traditionally, such potentially flammable or combustible liquids have been tipped and poured.  Today such spill-prone, VOC emitting methods are no longer considered acceptable, safe, or compliant – not when a fire or explosion can result.

In particular, younger workers, having seen the resulting physical injuries, chronic respiratory ailments, and even deaths endured by parents, grandparents and friends want much safer working conditions.  Consequently, there is now a call for greater safety and regulatory oversight to protect vulnerable workers and their families as simply and efficiently as possible.

“It can be catastrophic to a company if toxic or highly flammable material is accidentally released at the point of use,” says Deborah Grubbe, PE, CEng, is founder of Operations and Safety Solutions, a consulting firm specializing in industrial safety.

“When tipping a heavy drum, it is extremely difficult to pour a liquid chemical and maintain control,” adds Grubbe.  “Companies have to assume that if something can go wrong during chemical transfer, it will, and take appropriate precautions to prevent what could be significant consequences.  Because there is no such thing as a small fire in my business.”

Although the dangers of transferring flammable and combustible liquids are very real, protecting workers from harm can be relatively straightforward.  This includes proper safety training, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), and the use of engineering controls to prevent dangerous spills.

A Lethal Situation

During a manufacturing process on Nov 20, 2017 at Verla International’s cosmetics factory in New Windsor NY, an employee transferred hexamethyl disiloxane (flash point -6 °C / 21.2 °F) from a drum into another container and then wiped down the chemical drum.  The friction from wiping created static electricity that caused the drum to become engulfed in flames within seconds.  The resulting fire and explosions injured more than 125 people and killed one employee.

A video released by the Orange County Executive’s Office shows the worker wiping down the chemical tank, “causing static which is an ignition event.” “Seconds later, the tank becomes engulfed in flames, with parts of the man’s clothing catching on fire as he runs from the explosion,” according to the Poughkeepsie Journal, a local area newspaper.

Although the man sustained only minor injuries, many at the cosmetics factory were not so lucky.

With the potentially lethal consequences from the use of flammable/combustible liquids in so many industrial facilities, it is essential to understand the hazard.

Flammable and Combustible Liquid Hazards

In a flammable liquids fire, it is the vapors from the liquid that ignite, not the liquid.  Fires and explosions are caused when the perfect combination of fuel and oxygen come in contact with heat or an ignition source.  Based on their flash points, that being the lowest temperature at which liquids can form an ignitable mixture in air, flammable liquids are classified as either combustible or flammable.

Flammable liquids (those liquids with a flash point < 100 deg F) will ignite and burn easily at normal working temperatures where they can easily give off enough vapor to form burnable mixtures with air.  As a result, they can be serious sources of a fire hazard. Flammable liquid fires burn very fast and frequently give off a lot of heat and often clouds of thick, black, toxic smoke.

Combustible liquids (those liquids with a flash point > 100 deg F) do not ignite so easily but if raised to temperatures above their flashpoint, they will also release enough vapor to form burnable mixtures with air. Hot combustible liquids can be as serious a fire hazard as flammable liquids.

Both combustible and flammable liquids can easily be ignited by a flame, hot surface, static electricity, or a spark generated by electricity or mechanical work.  Highly volatile solvents are even more hazardous because any vapor (VOCs) released can reach ignition sources several feet away.  The vapor trail can spread far from the liquid and can settle and collect in low areas like sumps, sewers, pits, trenches and basements.  If ventilation is inadequate and the vapor trail contacts an ignition source, the fire produced can flash back (or travel back) to the liquid. Flashback and fire can happen even if the liquid giving off the vapor and the ignition source are hundreds of feet or even several floors apart.

The most obvious harm would be the danger of a fire or explosion.  “If the vapor is ignited, the fire can quickly reach the bulk liquid. A flammable vapor and air mixture with a specific concentration can explode violently,” according to information on the topic posted online by the Division of Research Safety by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Consequently, minimizing the dangers of handling flammable and combustible liquid chemicals requires proper training and equipment.

Safe Handling

Without proper ventilation, the handling of flammable substances has a good chance to create an explosive atmosphere.  It is essential to work only in well-ventilated areas or have a local ventilation system that can sufficiently remove any flammable vapors to prevent an explosion risk.

Because two of the three primary elements for a fire or explosion usually exist in the atmosphere inside a vessel containing a flammable liquid (fuel and an oxidant, usually oxygen), it is also critical to eliminate external ignition sources when handling such liquids.  Sources of ignition can include static discharge, open flames, frictional heat, radiant heat, lightning, smoking, cutting, welding, and electrical/mechanical sparks.

Static Electricity Grounding

When transferring flammable liquids from large containers (>4 L), to a smaller container, the flow of the liquid can create static electricity which could result in a spark. Static electricity build-up is possible whether using a pump or simply pouring the liquid.  If the bulk container and receiving vessel are both metal, it is important to bond the two by firmly attaching a metal bonding strap or wire to both containers as well as to ground, which can help to safely direct the static charge to ground.

When transferring Class 1, 2, or 3 flammable liquids with a flashpoint below 100°F (37.8°C), OSHA mandates that the containers must be grounded or bonded to prevent electrostatic discharge that could act as an ignition source. NFPA 30 Section 18.4.2.2 also requires a means to prevent static electricity during transfer/dispensing operations.

Engineering Controls

Beyond PPE and proper ventilation, it is absolutely critical for workers to use regulatory compliant, engineered controls to safely transfer flammable and combustible liquids at the jobsite.  Most states and municipalities across the U.S. have adopted NFPA® 30 Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code and OSHA 29 CFR 1910.106, which address the handling, storage, and use of flammable liquids.  With NFPA 30, material is classified as a Class 1 liquid (flammable) and Class 2 and 3 (combustible).

The codes account for safeguards to eliminate spills and leakage of Class 1, 2, and 3 liquids in the workplace. This begins with requirements surrounding the integrity of the container, but also extends to the pumps used to safely dispense flammable and combustible liquids.

Point of Use Containment

According to Gary Marcus of Justrite Manufacturing in an article posted on EHS Today’s web site, “Drums stored vertically are fitted with pumps instead of faucets for dispensing. Use of a pump is generally considered safer and more accurate. Some local codes require pumps for all drums containing flammable liquids.

A fast-growing approach to flammable liquids storage is to keep as much liquid as possible close to the point of use because it is efficient and saves time. Workers can minimize their exposure to potential ignition sources if they replenish their solvent supply from a drum near their workstations, rather than from the solvent room a quarter-mile away. OSHA permits up to 60 gallons of Class I or Class II liquids and up to 120 gallons of Class III liquids to be stored in safety cabinets close to workstations.”

In most workplaces, supervisors and facility managers have been recommending rotary and hand suction pumps to transfer flammable liquids for decades. However, they are increasingly turning to sealed pump systems designed for class 1 and 2 flammable liquids, which are a more effective engineering control tool for protecting employees and operations.

Conventional piston and rotary hand pumps have some inherent vulnerabilities.  These pumps are open systems that require one of the bungs holes to be open to the outside atmosphere. The pumps dispense liquids from the containers using suction, so it requires that a bung be open to allow air to enter the containers to replace the liquid removed.  Without this opening, either the container will collapse or the liquid will stop coming out.

Typically, there is also a small gap between the container opening (bung) and the pump dip tube that allows air to enter.  This opening also allows some vapor release into the atmosphere when the pumps are unused and connected to the container.  The gaps may allow an explosion to occur at a temperature near the flashpoint.  This can cause a high-velocity flame jet to vent near the bung, which could injure personnel near the container.

In addition, using the piston and rotary pumps to remove liquid from containers can allow some spillage since there is no flow control device. If a seal fails, liquid can also be sprayed from the pump and onto the user and the floor.

As a solution, the industry has developed sealed pump dispensing systems that enhances safety by eliminating spills and enables spill-free, environmentally safe transfer that prevent vapors from escaping the container.

These systems are made of groundable plastic and come complete with bonding and grounding wires. The spring actuation tap handle can be immediately closed to stop liquid flowing preventing any spills. The design of this sealed pump system also prevents liquid vapors from exiting the container when the pump is unused.   These characteristics significantly reduce the chance of an ignition event.   The combination of all these features ensure the pump meets both NFPA30-2015.18.4.4 standards and NFPA 77.

Now that the hazards of transferring flammable and combustible liquids are clearly recognized, proactive industrial facilities are beginning to protect their workers and their families by implementing safety training, PPE use, and sealed, grounded pumps.  This will help their operations stay compliant, mitigate insurance risks while minimizing the risk of fire and explosion due to spills, vapors, and static shock.


About the Author

Nancy Westcott is the President of GoatThroat Pumps, a Milford, Conn.- based manufacturer of industrial safety pumps and engineered chemical transfer solutions that keep companies in regulatory compliance.

PFAS Could Contaminate More Than 600 Military Installations, U.S. DOD Says

Written by The Environmental Working Group

The United States Department of Defense recently released new data showing that more than 600 military sites and surrounding communities could be contaminated with perfluorinated chemicals, or PFAS – far more installations than have been previously disclosed by Pentagon officials.

Details about the new facilities likely contaminated with PFAS leaked last week, a day after a House appropriations subcommittee hearing during which members heard heart-wrenching testimony from retired Army pilot Jim Holmes, who believes his 17-year-old daughter’s death from brain cancer could have been caused by exposure to PFAS-contaminated water on the base where he was stationed.

Holmes was joined at the hearing by EWG’s Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Scott Faber, who urged Congress and the Pentagon to accelerate efforts to clean up legacy PFAS pollution at military installations around the country.

Previously, DOD testified that 401 of its installations could be contaminated with PFAS, which have been linked to cancer, liver damage and harm to the reproductive and immune systems.

The updated list of installations identified by DOD can be found here.

The DOD’s use of firefighting foam made with PFAS, also known as aqueous film-forming foam, or AFFF, is the primary source of PFAS pollution at military installations.

(Note: Several of the installations where PFAS contamination is suspected include more than one military operation on the site, which is why some reports list the number of facilities at 651. When those locations with duplicate installations are considered, the actual number is just over 600 bases.)

EWG has so far confirmed PFAS in the tap water or groundwater at 328 military sites. Until recently, PFAS contaminated the drinking water of dozens of bases, and many communities near these installations continue to drink contaminated water.

Through Freedom of Information Act requests, EWG also discovered that many of the highest PFAS detections in the nation have been found on or near DOD installations.

In particular, within DOD documents, EWG found evidence of PFAS detections in groundwater at 14 installations that were above 1 million parts per trillion, or ppt, far above the 70 ppt drinking water advisory level recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“DOD has failed to treat PFAS pollution with the urgency service members and their families rightly deserve,” said EWG’s Scott Faber. “We’ve all known for decades that PFAS are toxic, but DOD is still trying to understand the scope of the problem.”

DOD officials have understood the risks of AFFF since the early 1970s, when Navy and Air Force studies first showed the firefighting foam was toxic to fish; since the early 1980s, when the Air Force conducted its own animal studies on AFFF; and since the early 2000s, when the maker of PFOS, the main ingredient in AFFF, exited the market. In 2001, a DOD memo concluded that the main ingredient in AFFF was “persistent, bioaccumulating and toxic.”

“DOD waited a decade to warn service members and has been slow to switch to PFAS-free alternatives to AFFF or clean up legacy PFAS pollution,” Faber said. “What’s more, some DOD officials have argued for cleanup and screening levels that are less protective of our service members and their families than those proposed by EPA.”

The National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2020 included important bipartisan PFAS reforms, including a provision to phase out AFFF by 2024. But the NDAA fell short of what’s needed to address the serious public health risks posed by PFAS, especially PFOA and PFOS.

“In light of these new revelations, Congress should do much more to accelerate the cleanup of legacy PFAS contamination,” said Faber. “To do so, Congress should increase funding for programs like the Defense Environmental Restoration Program and designate PFAS as hazardous substances under EPA’s Superfund program, which will ensure that PFAS manufacturers pay their fair share of cleanup costs.”


The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.

$1.2 million Fine for Solvent Spill in Alberta

Drever Agencies Inc. was recently fined $1,250,000 in Wetaskiwin Provincial Court for an offence under the Canadian Fisheries Act. The company pleaded guilty to a charge of depositing a deleterious substance into water frequented by fish. The fine will be directed to the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund.

The incident which led to the fine occurred in August 2017. Environment and Climate Change Canada enforcement officers responded to a report of a solvent spill on a commercial property in Wetaskiwin. A number of dead fish were observed in an unnamed creek that flows into the Battle River. An investigation determined that approximately 1800 litres of Petrosol solvent leaked from a storage tank owned by Drever Agencies Inc. and entered the creek. Through laboratory analysis, it was confirmed that the solvent was deleterious (harmful to fish).

Wetaskiwin is a city of 12,000, approximately 70 kilometres south of Edmonton. The city name comes from the Cree word wītaskiwinihk, meaning “the hills where peace was made”

As a result of the conviction, the company’s name will be added to the Environmental Offenders Registry.

Undated Photo of Drever Agencies Facility (Source: Drever Agencies Web Site)

 

Oil Spill in B.C. contaminates protected waterway

It took  several days to determine the source of an oil spill that contaminated the Gorge Creek in the Township of Esquimalt in British Columbia. It was confirmed by officials that the cause of the spill was a leaking residential heating-oil tank.  Oil from the tank entered both the subsurface and the stormwater system and eventually made its way to Gorge Creek.

Emergency Management BC found the spill on January 18th.  Esquimalt staff investigated potential spill sites in the north neighbourhoods of Esquimalt as well as monitor the creek to deploy booms and absorbing materials.  It took until January 24th to pinpoint the location of the spill.

As frustrations grew on the inability to locate the source of the spill, the number of officials involved in clean-up efforts grew to include federal, provincial, township and Capital Regional District staff.  Marine-spill and hazardous-materials experts were also at the scene, hired by the Township to assist with the cleanup.

Gorge Creek represents a critical part of the Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary that was created in 1923 to curb the hunting of birds. A Capital Regional District report says the sanctuary includes 1,840 hectares of marine and estuarine waters and provides habitat for rare and endangered plants and wildlife.  The impact of the spill on wildlife has yet to be assessed.

The total about of heating oil spilled into the creek and total cost of clean-up has yet to be determined.

 

Illegal dumping results in $190k remediation in Grande Prairie, Alberta

In May of last year, there was an incident in which hydrocarbon was illegally disposed into a curbside drain that contaminated a popular fishing pond in the County of Grande Prairie, Alberta.  The pond was closed for two months during the clean-up and remediation.  The final bill for the clean-up and remediation was recently tallied at $184,125.

Investigators from Alberta Environment Parks and Recreation (AEP) estimated that approximately five cubic metres (1,320 U.S. gallons) were released into the pond.  Although a determination was made that the release of hydrocarbons was intentional, fines have not been laid and AEP has closed the file.

After the initial response to contain the oil waste and prevent further contamination, the County’s environmental consultants conducted extensive remediation work along the shoreline, including removal of approximately two-thirds of the cattails surrounding the pond.

“The County along with Alberta Environment have been monitoring the wildlife in the area since the incident occurred and there is no known impact to the health of animal or aquatic life,” said Christine Rawlins, parks and recreation manager. “Out of an abundance of caution, however, we will continue to operate the pond on a catch and release basis only.”

In response to the incident, the County has reviewed its own internal processes for environmental emergency response and have made updates to the health and safety management system. Action steps include updating the Standard Operating Procedure, coordinating response through the Incident Command System, and ensuring an up-to-date list of qualified environmental contractors who can respond to similar events. The key is prompt detection and notification that leads to a quick response when these types of events occur.

“We are grateful to the member of the public who reported the sheen in the pond, which alerted us to the fact that there was an illegal dumping of hydrocarbon into a nearby drain,” said Daniel Lemieux, Director of Community Services for the County of Grande Prairie. “Vigilance is an important part of our early detection and mitigation strategy, so we ask that the public contact the Alberta Environment’s 24-hour Emergency Response Line at 1-800-222-6514 or Alberta Environmental and Dangerous Goods Emergencies at 1-800-272-9600 immediately if they see anything unusual, including someone dumping materials into the drains. This incident was costly to the County, the community, and the environment and was entirely preventable.”

 

 

Researchers develop sponge for recovering oil from wastewater

Researchers at the University at Imperial College London and the University of Toronto have developed a cost-effective sponge that can soak up oil relatively fast (less than 10 minutes). The research article, found in the Journal Nature, describes an innovative surface-engineered sponge (SEnS) that synergistically combines surface chemistry, charge and roughness.  The sponge is adept at adsorbing crude oil microdroplets.

The team of chemical engineers led by Pavani Cherukupally sought to find a solution by turning to polyurethane foam, a common material used in everyday household items like mattresses. Although polyurethane foam has good oil absorption properties, it only works well under certain conditions of acidity, which can strengthen or weaken the affinity between oil droplets and the sponge.

“It’s all about strategically selecting the characteristics of the pores and their surfaces. Commercial sponges already have tiny pores to capture tiny droplets. Polyurethane sponges are made from petrochemicals, so they have already had chemical groups which make them good at capturing droplets,” said Cherukupally.  “The problem was that we had fewer chemical groups than what was needed to capture all the droplets.”

The researchers developed a coating that alters the foam’s texture, chemistry, and charge, thus making it more suitable for a broad range of situations. When viewed under a microscope, the coating contains hair-like particles of nanocrystalline silicon that act like fishing rods for the oil droplets.

“The critical surface energy concept comes from the world of biofouling research—trying to prevent microorganisms and creatures like barnacles from attaching to surfaces like ship hulls,” Dr. Cherukupally said in a statement.  “Normally, you want to keep critical surface energy in a certain range to prevent attachment, but in our case, we manipulated it to get droplets to cling on tight.”

The sponge can remove microdroplets of crude oil in less than 10 minutes.  An earlier version of the sponge the the research team developed was able to remove over 95% of the oil in the tested samples, but it took three hours to achieve to same level of removal.

When tested under four different scenarios of acidity, the coated foam soaked up between 95% and 99% of the oil in approximately 10 minutes.  One of the great aspects of the sponge is that it can be reused after being washed with a solvent to remove the oil.  The oil can be recycled.