Control and contain the source of pollution
Controlling a spill or release can be as easy as plugging a hole in a tank, or as complex as capping an oil well on the bottom of the ocean. For spills to water we often use oil containment booms, which are floating, physical barriers made of plastic, metal, or other materials to slow the spread of oil and keep it contained.
Clean it up
One way we clean up oil spills is by using absorbent material that is oleophilic — in other words, it attracts oil but not water. This material comes in a lot of shapes and sizes including rectangular pads, long, thick sausage-like rolls, and even shredded material that looks like cheerleading pom-poms. Another device we use to cleanup spills is called a skimmer, which removes oil from the surface of the water. Companies or cooperatives with equipment and personnel that respond to oil spills, called Primary Response Contractors (PRCs), can also be hired to aid in cleanup efforts.
When spills occur, we not only clean the environment, we help harmed wildlife. Oil and hazardous materials can harm wildlife due to their harmful fumes. Wildlife can absorb these substances through their skin, consume it while feeding or grooming, or become coated or smothered by it. We work with wildlife professionals and trained volunteers to safely capture, clean, rehabilitate, and release wildlife, as diverse as birds and sea otters all the way to frogs and turtles, back into the environment.
Investigate the cause
We work with spillers to find the cause of a spill or release so we can identify things like procedure changes or equipment fixes that could help reduce the chance of another spill or release happening.
Assess natural resource damages
Whenever oil or hazardous materials are released into the environment, they cause injury to Washington's resources. Working cooperatively with spillers, as well as other federal, state, and tribal resource trustees, we determine the extent of those impacts using a process called a Natural Resource Damage Assessment.
Restore our natural resources
Ultimately, we assess the extent of environmental impacts from the spill so we can determine what type of, and how much, restoration is needed to bring the resources back to the condition they would have been had a spill or release not occurred.