oil spill

    Published: October 27, 2015

    Oil Spills and Their Consequences: Santa Barbara and Beyond

    On May 19, 2015, a pipeline along the coast of Santa Barbara, California, malfunctioned and burst, spilling a great amount of crude oil directly into the ocean. Plains All American Pipeline, the operator of the pipeline in question, originally estimated the total oil leaked at approximately 100,000 gallons. However, the Associated Press now reports that over 142,000 gallons were leaked in total, which was confirmed by the Texas-based company responsible last month.

    California has not experienced an oil spill of this magnitude in decades. Now more than ever, with increased scrutiny being placed on business practices that threaten the deteriorating natural environment, it is crucial to examine the true impact that oil spills have on wildlife, habitats, and natural resources. The Santa Barbara spill is evocative of both the infamous 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill and the disastrous spill from a BP oilrig in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Oil spills carry a looming sense of destruction about them, but how negative are the consequences, truly? Does the environment eventually course-correct itself after a spill?

    The simple answer is no. Oil spills are a direct result of negligence and over-consumption, interacting with the environment and surrounding habitats in deeply troubling ways. The damage done by a single oil spill can be catastrophic and irreversible. The immediate effects on a nearby coastal environment are destructive: Many oceanic organisms can quickly become poisoned and die when exposed to crude oil. Petroleum-based oils cannot be removed naturally by the environment itself, causing entire communities of biodiversity to stagnate and die off.

    Some of the most gruesome effects of oil spills are long-term and continue to impact the environment at large long after the spill. Freshwater organisms like fish and amphibians are highly sensitive to the chemicals found within oil and can become infected by harmful microorganisms. In addition to killing off vegetation, fish, birds, and mammals, the contaminants found within oil can infiltrate freshwater habitats and even find its way into your drinking water.

    Even so, major corporations that benefit from the sale of oil do little to curb the negative effects of oil spills or regulate production. Only one month after the oil spill near Santa Barbara, the state of California granted a hearing to corporate oil producer Venoco. The company plans to propose tripling their offshore oil production near Santa Barbara, The Guardian reports.

    As a concerned citizen there are several steps you can take to make your voice heard and protect yourself from future oil spills. If you reside in California, call or write your state legislators to voice your disapproval of any oil production expansion along the coastlines of California. To protect yourself from the potentially dangerous contaminants found within crude oil, call a water specialist at Pelican water ensure you are taking the proper steps to safeguard your home. Considering that chemicals from oil spills can also infect well water, it’s always a smart idea to equip your home with a first-rate filtration system, like the Pelican Whole House Filter with UV, which destroys 99.9 percent of harmful microorganisms to make your water healthier and safer.