Wednesday, 16 March 2011

20Th Century Disasters - The Amoco Cadiz Oil Spill And The Baia Mare Cyanide Spill

By Wendy Moyer
We humans have a seemingly insatiable demand for oil and other natural resources. Aside from the direct damage that we are doing to the Earth in the pursuit of these resources we are also indirectly inflicting a phenomenal amount of damage on our planet.
Between 1978 and 200 there were several far reaching catastrophes that had significant effects on our environment. One was the Amoco Cadiz oil spill, the other the Baia Mare cyanide spill.
The Amoco Cadiz Oil Spill
Well before anyone ever heard of either the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico or the Exxon Valdez, in 1978 while crossing the English Channel an oil tanker ruptured its tank when it went aground on the rocks. Then, before any help could arrive, a storm broke loose and tore the ship apart. As a result, the Amoco Cadiz lost its entire load of 68 million gallons of oil into the waters off the coast of Brittany, France.
Like more recent oil spills, it was difficult to clean up the Amoco Cadiz disaster because the seas were violent. The resulting oil slick, estimated to be eighty miles long and eighteen miles wide, killed 300,000 birds and contaminated approximately two hundred fifty miles of coastline.
Scientists saw entire species being wiped out. A study that was published by the National Research Council stated that clams, urchins, and other bottom dwelling creatures suffered "massive mortality." In addition several fish species growth rates slowed significantly.
A lot of the oil from that spill invaded protected marshes and did not easily degrade. Researchers' estimates indicated that it would be decades before the ecosystem would once again attain its pre-spill level. By the turn of the 21st century animal populations were still feeling the effects of the spill.
The Baia Mare Cyanide Spill
Thirty days into the new century a Romanian dam holding 26 million gallons of polluted water and waste from a gold mining operation broke. It contained between fifty-five and one hundred-ten tons of cyanide and other heavy metals.
The toxic spill found its ways into Romanian, Yugoslavian, and Hungarian rivers and eventually breached the Danube River. Yugoslavia and Romania both saw (and smelled) the huge amounts of fish that were killed by this toxic spill. Hungarian reports indicated that the spill accounted for 1,367 tons of dead fish.
In addition, the cyanide wiped out all of the plankton in the rivers.
Although the cyanide dissipated relatively quickly the other heavy metals released by the dam break are still posing a threat.
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