General Question

Ltryptophan's avatar

Will a successful oil spill clean up in the gulf leave a residue that is not able to be cleaned?

Asked by Ltryptophan (10241points) June 21st, 2010

If I dump a few barrels of oil into an olympic swimming pool of ocean water, and then attempt to remove all of the oil with the most effective method currently being used in the gulf of mexico, what will be left? Pure ocean water in exactly the condition it was in before I dumped the oil?

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10 Answers

CMaz's avatar

No, but close. There is always residuals.

Like the ocean you can then run the pool filter to get the rest of the nasties out.

ucme's avatar

I’d concur with answer given above.Beware the floating turd.

wundayatta's avatar

Are you saying that the techniques used in the Gulf work better in a swimming pool? Or are you trying to make an analogy between the swimming pool and the gulf?

It’s one thing to clean up a swimming pool—although, to be fair, you’d have to reduce the size of your cleanup equipment so that it is the same relative size to the swimming pool as the grown-up size equipment is to the Gulf.

There won’t be “pure” ocean water for many decades—perhaps centuries. Who knows with this well will stop spewing oil. Tar balls will continue to float up on beaches for a generation or more. And who knows what is going on beneath the surface?

I have to wonder if the skimming activities are doing anything useful. It seems to me the problem is way bigger than anything we can make a difference to. Maybe skimming and beach patrols make people feel better, but I have to wonder if it is worth it.

Ltryptophan's avatar

I am trying to figure out if under optimal controlled conditions we can clean the ocean water. If we can’t do it in a small scale. We surely can’t do it on a large scale.

CMaz's avatar

“There won’t be “pure” ocean water for many decades”

When was there “pure” ocean water? :

JLeslie's avatar

Even if we can get back to the ocean water being as “pure” as before the spill, there is still a significant amount of wildlife damage in the meantime. AND, it is not just the oil, it is the chemicals they are using to break up the oil which are very scary to me. Could have mutagenic affects, who knows.

wundayatta's avatar

We do clean lots of water every day in this country. Most towns have their own sewage treatment plants. All kinds of stuff—oils, metals, trash, etc are cleaned in these plants. It is possible to clean swimming pools. It happens every day in hundreds of thousands of pools across the country.

But, to coin a phrase, all that treated water is but a drop in the Gulf. It’s the size of the Gulf that is the problem—along with a host of other problems like wind, currents, and on and on. Nature will eventually deal with the oil in one way or another. Humans maybe will deal with a percent of it, it that—in the near term. Over the centuries, we may deal with a lot more of it. Mostly, though, the wind and the water and living things will take care of it. Oil eating bacteria and perhaps some oil tolerant vegetation and maybe some oil tolerant fauna, yet to evolve, might deal with it. But humans will only be a small part of that process, I think.

Are we protecting a few, small estuaries? Maybe. That kind of thing I think we can do and it will mean something. I think genetic engineering has a better chance of working on this problem, but I worry about the “I know an old lady who swallowed a fly” syndrome. Each solution to the prior problem creates an even bigger problem. In the end, the old lady dies.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Unfortunately, no amount of filtering will remove the water soluble components of crude oil. The water might look clear but the toxins are still there Source:“The estimation of toxic effects of water-soluble fractions of crude oil on marine organisms.
Give it a few years and bacteria will evolve that can eat this mess.
I hope.

dpworkin's avatar

There are oil-ingesting bacteria, but they dangerously deplete the oxygen levels around where they work, making it doubly dangerous for marine life.

ubersiren's avatar

I read an article that explained that the ocean can actually degrade small amounts of oil… (searching for the article) So perhaps if residue is all that’s left, nature can take care of it.

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