Oil Spills on Pavement Pose a Significant Environmental Threat

The cumulative effect of mini oil spills that occur on land accounts for a significant percentage of the petroleum hydrocarbon pollutants that end up in North American bodies of water, environmental experts say.

A report released by a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) panel in the U.S. estimates that over every eight-month period, thousands of small land-based oil spills in North America combine to create a volume of oil equal to the notorious Exxon Valdez spill that occurred in Alaska in 1989. That?s 10.8 million gallons or 250,000 barrels of petroleum being carried straight into our environmentally sensitive bodies of water. And it happens three times every two years.

While media attention tends to focus on major marine oil disasters such as the current Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, experts say the environmental impact of small oil spills is often overlooked.

The NAS?s research team found that only 15 percent of North America?s marine oil pollution originates from the oil industry?s tankers and rigs. The rest ? an unbelievable 85 percent ? comes from everyday oil use, much of which occurs on land.

It?s these less dramatic events that are causing concern; small oil spills that occur on a regular basis on roads and in parking lots, runoff from gas stations and hydro facilities, and the accidental spillage of gasoline at industrial fuel storage depots. When it rains, oil pollutants are washed from paved surfaces directly into our storm drains and waterways.

Governments and industry are responding to this largely invisible crisis by using innovative treatment technologies such as Imbrium.