Water and Oil Don’t Mix: Large Oil Spill in Southern California Fills the Coast

Ariana Jaramillo, Political Writer

The Continued Use of Fossil Fuels Bears Environmental Damage

The Orange County coast, home to diverse marine life, had its biome disrupted by a 130,000-gallon oil spill on Oct. 2, prompting a new cleanup project to contain both environmental and human hazards.

For the environmental aspect, the most immediate and visible effects are, “the harm to birds, fish, and other marine animals [including] the harm to coastal ecosystems like marshes and wetlands. In the case of the Orange County spill, it’s looking like the worst ecological effects will be on the Talbert Marsh,” according to Dr. Jean Moran, a professor of Environmental Science at CSUEB.

While the spill is causing damage, it’s not as dangerous as other kinds of spills. “The spill happened five miles offshore in only 90 feet of water, which is a biologically active and productive zone. However, this was a crude oil spill which is not as bad as a spill of refined product, because, over time, crude oil can be naturally degraded by microbes,” Moran explained.

Still, there is a valid concern for human health due to the spill. A study on the previous Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010 revealed a significant impact on health in communities along the Gulf of Mexico. The study reported the following symptoms in relation to residents, “assorted respiratory issues; irritation of skin, eyes, nose, throat; chest pain; cardiovascular disease; gastrointestinal complaints; headaches, dizziness, fatigue, memory issues; and abnormal blood cell counts and liver and kidney function tests.”

With significant environmental and health risks, preventative measures must be taken to both decrease dependency on fossil fuels and improve infrastructure. According to Moran, they are on the way. “There is already legislation in the works, at both the federal and state level, to cease drilling offshore of California (and Oregon and Washington) for good. That is the only sure-fire way to prevent leaks and spills and is the direction we need to go very quickly anyway, in order to move away from the use of fossil fuels and toward the use of renewable energy,” Moran said.

The solution is already apparent, and it is necessary. “We already know how to replace fossil fuels with clean energy! It’s a matter of shifting all of the money that goes to oil and gas companies, and the money spent on mitigating their harmful effects,” Moran shared.

Effects that can vary, “all the way from cleaning up spills like this to treating illnesses due to air pollution to building sea walls because of sea-level rise – shifting that money to investing in the infrastructure needed to move forward as a clean energy society,” Moran included.

Thousands of oil spills occur each year in the U.S. and while some may not be as large in size, all create detrimental effects on the ocean’s marine life in addition to polluting our waters. However, there are cleaner alternatives to oil mills including solar and wind power.

Countries like Denmark successfully installed 6,235 installed wind power capacity per capita, a cleaner alternative to oil.