Toxic "Soap" / Oil Spills
Do some people put soap in ocean to cover-up oil spill? Which of
those soaps is most toxic to the fish?
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).
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Update: June 2012