How does NOAA help clean up oil and chemical spills?

Ever-evolving tools and techniques are used to clean up environmental spills.

Just like we may need sponges, scrub brushes, and a disinfectant to expel a mess in our house or yard, emergency responders employ a variety of tools and techniques to remove oil and chemicals spilled in our rivers, bays, and oceans, and washed up on our shores.

For more than 30 years, NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration has played a leading role in the evolving science of hazardous materials (also known as "HAZMAT") spill response. The following infographics provide a clear explanation of this always complex process.

responder tools infographic

Responder Tools

Since the 1988 debut of CAMEO—software that NOAA developed in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency—NOAA established itself as the go-to agency for HAZMAT modeling and simulations. This infographic shows NOAA's varied suite of responder tools, many of which have clever, user-friendly names. Having trouble reading the text on this graphic? Click or tap on the image for a larger view.
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responding to spills on shore infographic

Responding to Oil Spills on Shore

A massive oil spill can really muck up a coastline, as NOAA scientists learned when they raced to remote Prince William Sound, Alaska, in March 1989. In the wake of the EXXON Valdez oil spill—one of the worst U.S. spills in history—responders took shovels and hoses in hand. Since then, NOAA has helped pioneer many state-of-the-art techniques now used routinely in coastal cleanups.
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responding to spills at sea infographic

Responding to Oil Spills at Sea

Much has been learned about the tricky business of removing oil from open water since the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon incident in the Gulf of Mexico. NOAA continues to be at the forefront of refining both current and emerging techniques.
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Last updated: 06/25/18
Author: NOAA
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