How to Prevent Oil Spills

Oil spills are hugely detrimental to the environment, polluting drinking water and destroying oceanic ecosystems. Governments spend hundreds of millions of dollars cleaning up after large tanker spills, but these tankers are not the only culprits. If you heat your home with oil or own and run a boat, you also could cause an oil spill. According to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, personal clean-up costs can range from $15,000 to $300,000 in some extreme cases. Avoiding the stress and cost of a clean-up is easy with some simple preventative measures.

River bank with oil spill in water
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Oil spill in river.
Bow view of fully loaded cargo ship.
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Check oil on large boats annually.

Inspect for deterioration and leaks in equipment each year. On a boat, make sure all fuel lines and hoses are in good condition and that seals and connections are tight. At home, examine the oil tank, pipes and supply lines for corrosion or over-pressurization. Replace all the damaged parts with new fittings.

Valve with Tap
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Valve with tap.

Install an oil safety valve on the supply line of your heating system if you do not already have one. This will automatically shut off the oil supply if the line breaks.

Stacked oil containers
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Stacked oil containers.

Have your oil tank cleaned out every 10 years. Water and sludge can build up, causing corrosion and rusting the tank from the inside out.

Stacked oil containers
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Above ground oil containers stacked together.

Replace underground tanks that are more than 12 to 15 years old with an above-ground tank. Underground tanks tend to corrode more quickly than those that are sheltered above ground. Also, replace your above-ground tank if it has been uncovered for more than 10 years. Make sure your new tank has a covering to protect it.

a metal funnel
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Metal funnel for oil.

If you are handling your own fuel, especially on a boat, remove and transfer the liquid with care. Use funnels and pumps to avoid leaking oil into the water.

Sarah Morse

Sarah Morse has been a writer since 2009, covering environmental topics, gardening and technology. She holds a bachelor's degree in English language and literature, a master's degree in English and a master's degree in information science.