Tag Archives: Spill clean up

Why cleaning up oil spills is vital

Cleaning up oil spills in environments such as rivers or waterways is vitally important. This article raises the awareness of the dangers that oil spills can cause and discusses how oil spill kits and specific products such as marine oil spill kits can help you.

Last weekend, we came across a very interesting article discussing the likelihood of another clean-up operation for a major oil spill. The location is the Amazonian regions of Peru, and this news article provides further detail. In short, an oil spill from a major pipeline has been identified and urgent steps are being taken to try and fix the ruptured pipeline and clean up the oil spill. Details are rather sketchy but it is widely accepted that the Amazon is one of our planet’s most fragile ecosystems and the tension between oil companies and indigenous people in the area shows that feelings are running high.

Oil spills are never good; but when they take place in a fragile and vulnerable environment then the ramifications can be far reaching. The Amazon is one such area. Another area is rivers and waterways. The tiniest amount of oil spilled into a river can spread and stifle life, food and habitat for a number of different animals. To prevent these issues, this is why cleaning up oil spills – and knowing how to do so – is vitally important. This article goes on to explore the products that you will need.

Oil Spill Kits and Marine Oil Spill Kits

The first key thing to remember when thinking about products needed to tackle an oil spill is to think of their colour. Oil only absorbent products are white so this is the colour that you should be looking out for. The key feature of these oil only absorbent products is that they are hydrophobic. This means that they only absorb oil and they resist water. This is why these products are perfect for waterways spillages for things like canal boats.

Take our marine oil spill kit for instance. This contains absorbent pads, socks and cushions as well as some leak sealing putty to try and stop the leak at source. In an environment where any oil spill will be mixing with lots of water, the hydrophobic properties of the products in this spill kit make it the perfect choice. One kit absorbs up to 22 litres of oil which makes it ideal for smaller boat spills. At a time of year when people are thinking about their holidays and with vessels such as narrowboats becoming more and more popular, this is a must-have product.

For a larger oil spill, we have products that go all the way up to catering for a 900 litre oil spill. These larger products are more aimed at industrial settings where leaks on large machines can cause a high volume of oil spillage. An example would be our premium range 360 litre oil only spill kit.  This kit comes in a mobile 2 wheeled bin and contains a huge array of absorbent pads, socks and pillows as well as disposal bags and a floor sign. If your workplace runs the risk of oil spillage then you should think about one of these products to allow your company to comply with the law and be environmentally friendly.

Cleaning Up Oil Spills

Photo by Ingrid Taylar / Flickr

Oil Spills: The key point

We are not saying that the spill kits mentioned in this article would be suitable for an oil spill on the potential scale of the one mentioned in the news article above. However, we are saying that the basic and fundamental point about the dangers of oil spills on the environment applies equally to both scenarios.

Regardless of their size, smaller oil spills still need to be treated carefully to avoid irreparable damage to the environment and all of us handling oil or operating machinery using oil have a duty to take special care. The products mentioned in this article will help you to do that.

At Spill Control Centre, our product experts would be happy to discuss any questions arising from this article – just give us a call on 01724 281044 / 277479.

Mineral Oil Spill blamed for bird contamination

Hundreds of seabirds washed up in an oil spill on the south coast from Sussex to Cornwall on Thursday 31st January were contaminated with a waxy substance that is now believed to be a mixture of refined mineral oils, most probably jettisoned from a ship passing through the Western approaches to the English Channel.
A major rescue operation has been launched by the RSPCA and other local charities to capture and clean the affected birds. Inevitably it is highly likely that many more birds have perished out to sea than have been rescued and even then it has proved such a major task to remove the contamination that not all the birds rescued will survive.


Preventing environmental pollution both on land and sea is now given top priority and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency have sent a counter pollution surveillance aircraft to investigate the sea areas between Dover and the Isles of Scilly looking for the source. Shipping schedules and cargo records are also being scoured to try and pinpoint the culprit.
The fact that the captain of the vessel did not report the spill suggests it was not accidental and more likely to do with saving money. Let’s hope the authorities can track the ship down and prosecute the offender at least as a deterrent to others. Sadly as far as the Guillemots are concerned the damage is already done and worse still right at the start of the breeding season.
The incident, and the expensive resources put behind locating the source should act as a reminder to all those involved in the transport, storage and use of oils, fuels and other hazardous materials. It is a legal obligation to ensure appropriate spill control and containment measures such as absorbent products, bunds and spill kits are in place should a spill occur.

The Environment Agency is ever more vigilant and can force the perpetrator to foot the bill for environmental pollution caused by careless or irresponsible actions.

Conducting a spill risk assessment to help formulate a coherent spill control management system is the only sensible approach and will protect the viability of the business as well as the environment.

How to Remove Oil Spills and Stains.

With the first snows of winter forecast for this week I decided to stock up my log store. I had some large boughs on the drying rack ready for cutting. Trying to burn fresh cut “green” wood on an open fire is hopeless so I always have logs seasoning for at least 3 months prior to winters arrival.

The chain saw needed a quick sharpen and I topped up the saws chain oil container. Believe me the saw cuts far better and stays sharp longer if chain oil is used. I don’t quite know how but I clearly forgot to replace the oil cap. The first I knew of it was when my wife pointed out the sinuous trail of oil snaking across the paved drive between the garage and the wood store. It was probably less than 100ml in total but what an unsightly mess it looked.

Spill Aid
Having written extensively on oil spills in the past I knew that the quicker the stain gets attention the better the outcome. There are loads of oil stain removal products on the market but I doubt anyone would be lucky enough to have a bottle on the shelf for such an event. I certainly did not.

So what to do. The first step is to remove as much of the fresh wet oil as possible. Use an absorbent wipe or absorbent pad preferably commercial grade. I have a roll of the Eez Off Heavy duty wipes that I find the best all-rounder for the workshop and garage. Lay it over the oil and dab rather than scrub as this just spreads the stain. The next step is to sprinkle over absorbent granules to draw out the oil. You will be surprised how many common household products can be applied.

Cat litter is often used (if you have a cat as we do) but I find it too coarse and suggest putting some in a plastic bag and crushing it with a rolling pin to a finer consistency before applying to maximise the surface contact area. You will need to leave it for a day or two and unfortunately if it rains the resultant slush makes an even bigger mess than the oil and on a windy day it will just blow away. I have also heard of people using dry cement, baking soda, talcum powder, oven cleaner and even salt but have never tried them myself.

Once the oil is dry you can also use a laundry powder detergent. Sprinkle the detergent onto the stain, add a small amount of water to make paste, scrub it into the stain using a stiff brush and leave it overnight. Wipe off the excess and hose down. I have also heard that pouring Cola on the stain is effective but it seems unlikely unless you know different.

Lastly check the type of oil being used. Increasingly modern oils including Chain oils are biodegradable so if you are still left will a faint stain over time the elements will work on the oil until it disappears naturally, although think months rather than days.

Spill control can protect your business

Accidental spills of oils, chemicals and other toxic pollutants have the potential to severely damage your business operation. If you are found to be negligent not only will the Environment Agency bill you for the clean-up costs you can also be landed with a heavy fine and the adverse publicity may damage your reputation.

So here is a 10 point plan to minimise the risk to your business the environment and your workforce.

Drain Cover

1. First make sure any potentially harmful substances are correctly labelled with an appropriate COSHH hazardous substance warning sign.

2. Put in place stocks of spill control materials and equipment appropriate to the spill hazards identified

3. Make sure all staff know the location of any spill control materials and equipment and how to use them.

4. Provide appropriate PPE equipment such as protective suits, fume masks, gloves and footwear so designated staff can tackle spills safely.

5. Protect environmentally sensitive areas by deploying drain mats and locating hazardous storage well away from drains and watercourses.

6. Preferably construct a bund around storage tanks and to divert spillages away from watercourses. A pile of earth or sand can be used to form a temporary bund in the event of a spill.

7. If a spill does reach a watercourse, deploy absorbent socks or booms to prevent spread.

8. If possible clean up the spill using appropriate absorbent granules, absorbent pillows and absorbent socks.

9. The materials used in the clean-up are also a hazard so dispose of correctly by removal to an authorised waste disposal facility.

10. If a major spill occurs, particularly of toxic or flammable liquids stop all work, inform the emergency services and/or the Environment Agency and move staff to a safe area until the spill is contained

Following these guidelines will ensure that if an accident occurs you can demonstrate your business has taken a responsible approach to spill management and control.

Support the Diesel Spills Campaign

Friday is our day for the weekly visit to the supermarket. On this occasion we needed some cooking oil which I thought expensive at £1.20 a litre. On the way out I called in for some Diesel. At £1.48 a litre the price was eye watering and I calculated that it probably cost me close to a fiver just to get to the supermarket and back. How on earth can refined cooking oil be cheaper than car fuel? You would think that commercial users of fuel like hauliers, bus operators and farmers would be careful not to waste a drop but apparently diesel spills from overfilled tanks and faulty tank caps present a major hazard to other drivers and motorcyclists in particular.

The problem occurs when the vehicle fuel tank has been filled or overfilled and/or the tank cap is either faulty, or even missing. When the vehicle then enters a bend or roundabout the resulting sideways surge often results in several litres of fuel being deposited on the road surface. At current prices several litres adds up to a lot more than a can of beans – also on my supermarket list.

Spill campaign

I was a victim of such a spill on a motorway slip road (no pun intended) a few years back when my car lost all traction and spun off the road. A motorcyclist in the same scenario would likely part company with the bike and be lucky not to be seriously hurt. To highlight the dangers a ‘Kill Spills Campaign’ organised by the Motorcycle Action Group (MAG) has been launched to encourage businesses to display a warning sticker near the filler cap on their larger diesel vehicles.

The yellow stickers remind drivers to avoid overfilling the diesel tank and to make sure that the filler cap is replaced properly. The campaign already has the support of local transport authorities notably in Lincolnshire and Derbyshire but surprisingly is meeting resistance from some forecourt operators and haulage companies.Under the Carriage of Dangerous Goods act ADR class commercial vehicles are obliged to carry spill kits
appropriate to the hazard. Adding a simple MAG sticker adjacent the fuel tank hardly seems a contentious decision if it saves lives.If you would like some of the stickers, they can be obtained free of charge from The Motorcycle Action Group.