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Question:
Do some people put soap in ocean to cover-up oil spill? Which of those soaps is most toxic to the fish?



Replies:
I contacted a friend of mine who words for a major oil refinery in the Chicago area. She had the following to say about usage of soap on oil spills. First of all, the main concern with an oil spill is to contain the spill using floating dams. Oil floats on water so a spill can be contained with a series of flotation devices encircling the spill. Once contained, the spill can be "sopped up" using oil absorbent materials.

Special bacteria that bread down oil are also used to get rid of oil in the spill area. As a last resort, surfactants are used to break up remaining oil (surfactants used on oil are detergent, not soap). Surfactants are not used to cover up an oil spill, they are used to make the oil less concentrated in a single area when clean up efforts have been exhausted. As far as which soap is most toxic to the fish, my friend replied: "The oil."

Crude oil released in a spill stays near the surface and really effects mostly birds, mammals, and fish that go to the surface to feed. Any surfactant applied to a spill is diluted hundreds of times before it reaches the average fish. I do not know what the most toxic material is that is used to break up a spill and neither did my friend, however, this is not a cover-up method. Anyway you look at it a very dilute detergent is less likely to kill a fish than a lot of "tar" stuck in a fish's gills (crude oil is very thick).

Eric Dallman



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