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Another Day, Another Oil Spill

You know the drill; a train carrying oil derails spilling thousands of gallons of oil, igniting a massive fire, forcing evacuations, and contaminating local water and land. I could save a lot of time by hanging on to this opening sentence and reusing it for every inevitable oil spill to come. This time, a spill occurred in Lynchburg, Virginia on Wednesday, April 30, after 15 cars from the rail company CSX went off the tracks.

Three of the cars were carrying oil, which exploded and fell into the James River, spilling about 50,000 gallons into the local water source. An immense fire followed, causing huge plumes of black smoke to engulf the area. According to the News and Advance, “The ensuing conflagration ignited oil on the surface of the river, sent flames and smoke hundreds of feet into the air, forced evacuations of downtown businesses and homes and rattled the nerves of hundreds of downtown workers.”

Fortunately, no serious injuries or deaths were reported, and the oil in the James River should not pose a threat to the drinking water. According to John Aulbach, Director of Virginia’s Department of Health, “The spill is below Lynchburg’s drinking water intake and more than 120 miles upriver from the Richmond area. It’s not going to have an impact on our water plants here.”

Still, clean-up crews are already working to contain the spill and eliminate all oil. “We’re going to remove it all…We’re not going to accept any oil,” said Director of Public Utilities Robert Steidel.

Will It Ever End?

As I’ve mentioned, this story is all too common. Whether oil spills are caused by train derailments, pipe leaks, or ship crashes, it’s still absurd that so many occur, especially since they have devastating effects and lose valuable inventory. Even if I didn’t care about environmental disasters, if I owned the oil, wouldn’t I try my hardest to make sure I could sell all of my product? Besides having to pay for impending lawsuits and oil removal, isn’t it in the oil industry’s best interest to protect what makes it money?

I also find it very hard to understand why an industry accepts failure so easily. In any other field, if a disastrous event happened once, those involved would find another method to complete the task at hand. If a civil engineer used a design that caused bridges to collapse every so often, the engineer would never continue with that plan. The oil industry makes it clear it just rolls the dice and hopes for the best each time it transports oil.

We can all recognize that replacing outdated railcars with pressurized tanks would not only be more cost effective for oil companies, but it would reduce the risk of continuous accidents as well. Maintaining pipes and infrastructure would also be a necessary investment to keep oil spills from happening across the world. For now though, it’s clear that the oil industry is going to stick with the “keep your fingers crossed” method. In the meantime, I’m going to save this template for future blogs: An oil spill occurred insert place here when a insert mode of transportation here accident happened on insert date here.

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