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  • The next oil spill won't be a matter of ifbut when.

  • Deepwater Horizon may have happened years ago, but significant research is still being

  • conducted to learn as much as possible from the biggest oil disaster in recent United

  • States history, and to find new, less toxic ways to reverse future oil spill damage.

  • During Deepwater Horizon I believe there were 15,000 actual phone calls into the command

  • post suggesting different ways of cleaning up and doing things.

  • If we're doing the same thing every different spill, we're not doing the best we can.

  • Michael Ziccardi spent five months in Louisiana during Deepwater Horizon

  • responding to the disaster.

  • It's his job to think of every aspect of oil spill response.

  • Recently, he has been tracking the behavior of affected marine birds after they have been

  • cleaned by the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, a world-wide model for oil spill preparedness

  • and response.

  • Just by going to the Oiled Wildlife Care Network website we can actually see real time

  • where these animals are at.

  • I honestly think that every oil spill needs to be a learning opportunity.

  • During the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, they did a lot of what are called

  • alternative response techniques.

  • They burned the oil off the surface of the water, but they also used a larger volume

  • of chemical dispersants.

  • Nearly seven million liters of dispersants known

  • as Corexit 9500 and 9527 were used.

  • The concept is it's a surfactant, or a detergent, that goes on top of the oil

  • and breaks it up into very small molecules,

  • driving it into the water column itself.

  • The idea with that not only is it less risk to animals that might be on the surface of

  • the water, but by sending it into the water column it's actually allowing bacteria to

  • break down the oil.

  • Dispersants work similarly to dish soap.

  • Surfactants are long molecules that are water-seeking on one end, or hydrophilic,

  • and oil-seeking, or oleophilic, on the other end.

  • When the surfactant is in turbulent, moving water, it reaches across the oil-water boundary

  • and lowers the tension between water and oilallowing it to break apart.

  • This was the first time dispersants had ever been used at such an enormous scale.

  • Mike's research centers on how Corexit may affect wildlifespecifically, marine birds

  • and their complex feather structure, which is responsible for keeping them warm.

  • So the feather structure of birds is fascinating.

  • It's a combination of barbs and barbules and hooklets.

  • Think of a piece of Velcro.

  • The feathers basically make that Velcro.

  • When oil affects a bird, there's an artificial separation in that Velcro so it can't stick

  • together.

  • So what ends up happening,

  • is water can seep through the feathers and down to the skin.

  • What we found was something we did not expect at all.

  • At high concentrations, they lost their waterproofing almost immediately.

  • But that waterproofing actually resolved itself within a matter of a day.

  • So it seems like it was a temporary loss and just by swimming in water, or over time they

  • could actually lose that impact.

  • It could be that if dispersant application occurs, you can throw out a raft that animals

  • can haul out on to get themselves warm. They don't need to be captured, they don't need

  • to be brought into rehabilitation where they're going to be there two or three weeks.

  • It's just that temporary fix.

  • Animals could survive it, as long as they're not in the oil as far as the dispersant application.

  • Although the birds' waterproofing seems to recover, Corexit is still very controversial.

  • And Mike and his team — as well scientists around

  • the country — are still investigating the impacts of Corexit's toxicity.

  • Mike hopes this information will shape future decision-making during oil spill response

  • efforts, and encourage alternative approaches that could be less costly and less intrusive

  • to wildlife.

  • I think for the foreseeable future oil spills will always be there.

  • I believe that we have a moral obligation to try to repair the damage and to try to

  • reduce the impacts on the wildlife.

  • It is truly the only thing I've ever wanted to do, is to try to help animals in crises,

  • especially in crises that humans cause.

The next oil spill won't be a matter of ifbut when.

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What Are We Doing to Prepare for the Next Big Oil Spill?

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    joey joey posted on 2021/04/14
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