Environmental considerations

The oil spill itself is not the only impact the local environment suffers. The capture and cleaning of oiled wildlife has the potential to further damage the environment. Some important considerations must be taken into account to minimise this secondary  impact on the environment.

Secondary pollution

A person who comes in contact with oil or with oiled animals will become contaminated, thus a safe wildlife response includes the use of personal protective equipment. But, while the responder avoids health risks, the protective clothing becomes oiled. This is called secondary pollution. Another example is the responder who has been on an oily beach, but doesn't take his boots off before leaving the area,  spreading pollution into unaffected areas.

By responding to oil pollution, new pollution - oily waste - is created. An important element in the training of oil spill responders is teaching them how to minimise this secondary pollution, including the generation of oily waste. A responder must be aware of the options he has to minimise his personal footprint. In designing facilities, developing routines and being aware of the use of consumables and equipment within those facilities and on beaches there are many opportunities to minimise secondary pollution.

Damage to natural areas

Oiled wildlife must be rescued from shorelines, many of which are natural areas. Responders may damage these natural areas just by entering them in search of casualties. For example, sensitive habitats such as salt marshes (or mangroves in the tropics), reedbeds etc. may be damaged when responders enter them to catch an oiled bird. Even an oiled beach must be entered with care to avoid pushing surface oil deeper into the sediment (walking or driving a fourwheel drive vehicle through the oil) which makes it much harder to clean up.

Waste management

Oily waste (boxes used in animal transport, oiled personal protection equipment, etc), waste water from the washing process and even oiled carcasses must be carefully collected and treated as oil polluted waste. Minimising the secondary pollution caused by this waste is an important objective in the wildlife response.