Oil Spills are a Slippery Slope

By Karly Shire

In mid February, 30 cars of a 100 car train derailed and exploded.  The train was carrying millions of gallons of crude oil, which many feared would run off into the Kanawha River.  The Kanawha River acts as a source for drinking water for Kanawha and Fayette counties.  It’s pollution would mean that almost 2,000 people would be without water.

Train derailment into the river--toledoblade.com

Train derailment into the river–toledoblade.com

Train derailment after the fires were extinguished--Nytime.com

Train derailment after the fires were extinguished–Nytime.com

Fortunately, after testing water near an intake valve, the Kanawha River showed no traces of crude oil.  However, residents were still urged to boil their water as a precaution.  Despite this lucky break, there is still much concern regarding the incident.

We have seen the toll that an oil spill can take.  The BP Oil Spill in 2010 dumped 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.  The active cleanup took three years and the Gulf is still not fully recovered.  This incident showed the full potential of an oil spill.

Crude Oil production is on the rise--Association of American Railroads

Crude Oil production is on the rise–Association of American Railroads

According to the New York Timesthese incidents are becoming more common.  Shipping oil by rail has nearly doubled in just one year, allowing more room for error.  The federal Department of Transportation has created several standards for trains carrying crude oil in hopes to prevent another spill.  Oil spills can have catastrophic effects on our health, our environment and wildlife, and our economy

Oil Spills Affecting our Health

When a spill occurs we often see the devastating effects it has on the environment and wildlife.  However, we do not often see or hear about how it can affect the community’s health.  Crude oil is semi-volatile, meaning it evaporates and remains a vapor in the air we breath, it becomes an invisible threat.  Breathing in this vapor can lead to respiratory problems.  Exposure to the vapors can also lead to skin conditions, such as melanoma.  Experts believe there are even more long-term effects on health that have yet to be determined.

Oil Spills Affecting our Environment and Wildlife  

Pelican covered in oil from the BP spill--http://akashictimes.co.uk

Pelican covered in oil from the BP spill–http://akashictimes.co.uk

We are more familiar with the damaging effects an oil spill can have on our environment and wildlife.  Not only can wildlife be killed and potentially wiped out as a species, but also their habitat can be destroyed.  During the BP spill, experts found the the spill can potentially harm an animal’s skin or feathers, their internal organs, and their reproduction.  The spill in 2010 killed over 8,000 various wildlife.  If an animal does survive a spill, they face the long-term effects, such as a lack of food, loss of habitat, and health defects.

Oil Spills Affecting our Economy

The economy takes a major hit every time an oil spill occurs.  Not only do we lose the millions of dollars worth of oil, but also the millions of dollars in cleanup.  The Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 cost the company over $2 billion in cleanup, only recovering about 8% of the oil.  The BP oil spill cost the company over $40 billion, not only in cleanup, but also legal fees for gross negligence.

Although the spill that occurred at the Kanawha river was not quite as big, it will still take a toll on the state of West Virginia.  The exact numbers have not been released, though many are estimating that the train derailment and spill will cost the company, CSX, a few million dollars.  West Virginia’s tourism, recreation, and fishing economy will likely take a hit due to the incident.

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Since the time of the incident, the Environmental Protection Agency has stepped in.  The EPA order CSX to submit a plan of action, which includes both short-term and long-term cleanup and restoration for the impacted areas.  The EPA has also partnered with the state to ensure proper cleanup, as well as minimizing any further harm.  A long-term monitoring of the air and water has been put in place to ensure that the people and wildlife in the area will remain safe.

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One thought on “Oil Spills are a Slippery Slope

  1. When I heard about the accident in Southern West Virginia I couldn’t believe it, and the fact that no one I talked to knew anything about it pissed me off. I doubt any studies will be done on this, usually when something happens in W.Va. it just gets swept under the rug and forgotten. Everyone goes on and it will happen again because no one has pressed for a change to the norm. It’s a horrible cycle that just hurts this state.

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