What Happens When an Oil Spill Occurs?
ES0703  Oil Spill Response

The first response step once an oil spill has occurred is to try to minimize its spread. Oil is less dense than water, so it floats on the surface of the water. Often a large boom (barrier) is placed around a portion of the spill or the tanker. The boom can also be used to help skim the oil off the surface.

A smaller boat tows a boom near the Exxon Valdez to skim oil from the water's surface.

Depending upon where the oil spill occurs, the EPA or the Coast Guard may be in charge of the response efforts.

  !   Move your cursor over the image to highlight the boom.

It is estimated that over 100 miles of boom were used in the efforts to contain and skim oil spilled from the Exxon Valdez.

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