An environmental emergency is a sudden threat to public health or the well-being of the environment, arising from the release of hazardous substances into the air, land, or water. Examples of environmental emergencies include: · oil and chemical spills, · radiological and biological discharges · accidents causing releases of pollutants These emergencies may occur from transportation accidents, events at a chemical facility, fuel oil tank breach, facilities using or manufacturing chemicals, or even natural or man-made disaster events. If a spill/release is a petroleum substance and it finds its way to water, it doesn't mix and creates an oil slick and can be absorbed into the surrounding soils. Oil usually spreads out rapidly across the water surface to form a thin layer (an oil slick).. As the oil continues spreading, the layer becomes thinner and thinner, finally becoming a very thin layer called a sheen, which often looks like a rainbow. Once oil has spilled, the cleanup could involve may use any of the following kinds of tools to clean up spilled oil: · Booms, which are floating barriers to oil (for example, a big boom may be placed around a tanker that is leaking oil, to collect the oil). · Skimmers, which are boats that skim (scoop) spilled oil from the water surface. · Sorbents, which are big sponges used to absorb oil. · Chemical dispersants and biological agents, which break down the oil into its chemical constituents. · In situ burning, which is a method of burning freshly spilled oil, usually while it's floating on the water. · Vacuum trucks, which can vacuum spilled oil off the water surface. · Shovels and road equipment, which are sometimes used to pick up oil off the ground surface or gravel.
Article source: noaa.gov