When you think about environmental disasters which have happened at sea, you probably think about big oil spills like Exxon Valdez, the Prestige and Deepwater Horizon. That’s natural. Those made a huge impact on the environment as well as changed the way we clean up after disasters of this type. Before the Valdez in 1989, most companies never thought of creating an environmental contingency plan. Now, it’s de rigueur.
Spills and leaks while at sea compromise aquatic life; those in freshwater have the potential to contaminate the public’s water supply. Both need to be contained and cleaned up as quickly as possible. Oil spills are the most common type. A positive about these types of disasters is that the oil sits on top of the water, making the cleanup area easy to identify. The big drawback is this also allows the spill to spread quickly.
Several means now exist to assist responders in the effort to contain and then cleanup a spill.
- Mapping software helps to model potential spill/leak habits, identify at-risk ecosystems and coordinate responders and resources.
- Scientists have identified potentially hazardous chemical combinations to avoid.
- Modeling tools help identify potential harm to wildlife.
Ben Franklin’s adage, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail,” can certainly be applied to modern environmental contingency planning.