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  • Tiago Martins

Major Oceanographic Issues and Remediation Options.

Updated: Apr 6

The global ocean is being increasingly exposed to great and sudden changes because of our growing global marine exploitation since the industrial revolution. The industrial revolution was kick-started after the discovery of coal in steam engines, which allowed the mass production of steam engines for working in factories, improving the efficiency, and decreasing costs of manufacturing goods. Very little was known on the devastating consequences of overusing fossil fuels such as coal and oil. In recent decades, the use of the same fossil fuels are the driving force of climate change and exponential growth in population, leading to direct impacts such as greater strain on natural resources or indirect impacts such as increased chances of oil spills.

The direct impacts of climate change are most notable in the oceans and in particular coastal regions. The rise in temperatures lead to increased glacial melt, thermal expansion, and changes in metocean conditions. Each of these consequences can have devastating impacts on coastal settlements where 40% of the global population live within 100km of the shoreline.

The indirect impacts of a growing population are the need to service a larger amount of wastewater (Chapter 1), and increased pressure on trading and transporting goods, increasing the chances of a shipping accident and devastating oil spills (Chapter 2). Each of these indirect impacts of the industrial revolution can cause severely negative environmental, social and health impacts.


1. Wastewater

Wastewater is generated in households, industrial zones and agricultural zones. Each of these areas contributes to water pollution differently. Households contribute by adding human waste (excrement), and other non-organic waste (toilet paper, cotton buds, sanitary towels, etc.). Industrial zones waste can come in various forms, solid (concrete and scrap metals), liquids (oils and solvents) and semi-solids (sand and gravel). Areas of high agricultural output can contribute with pesticides and insecticides which can cause biological problems in water bodies. There are currently many places around the world experiencing various effects from different forms of water pollution.


There are two forms of wastewater treatment currently in widespread usage. The first being aerobic and the second being anaerobic. For each of the methods the treatment can be split into primary treatment and secondary treatment. The primary treatment is used for waste material that will either float or fall to the bottom on their own or material which is too big to fit through the screens right at the start of the treatment process. Grit will also be removed in this treatment process by using a grit chamber. All the materials which are removed from the wastewater during this process are generally buried in the grounds of the wastewater treatment facility. The secondary treatment is where the different methodologies separate into aerobic and anaerobic wastewater treatment. Aerobic waste treatment is carried out in the presence of oxygen, as opposed to anaerobic which is not.


Although the process for wastewater usage is very well known and works efficiently in more developed countries, with 74% of waste treated, less developed countries in the world only have an efficiency of 4.2% of wastewater treatment. Once these figures are realised it is easy to understand why waters around the African, Latin American, and Southeast Asian coastlines have the worst water quality. Each of these three regions show water quality to be >1000 faecal coliform concentration per 100ml of water. These high levels of severe water pollution are also measured over half the year.


Still, in much of the economically developed world there are relatively high rates of wastewater pollution, often after storms. Several utilities companies discharge untreated effluent into rivers/oceans as opposed to allowing the sewage to back up into the plumbing infrastructure, which leads to floods in homes and on roads. In the less developed regions of the world the lack of wastewater treatment infrastructure means that human waste will either be stored in septic tanks, placed into a ditch, or disposed directly into a body of water. High levels of untreated effluent water, as well as waste, being directly dropped into the oceans will lead to catastrophic environmental effects ultimately creating negative social and economic outcomes.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is going through legislative reform, backed by several members of parliament. Multiple Utilities companies are discharging untreated effluent, which includes human waste, sanitary products, and wet wipes, into rivers and streams which heavily impact the environment downstream. Water companies including United Utilities, Yorkshire Water and Thames Water discharged untreated effluent water over 400,000 times accounting for 3 million hours in 2020 across locations throughout England. As a result of water companies discharging untreated effluent to 55% of rivers across England and Wales are polluted [1].


The excess amount of sewage being discharged causes rapid algal growth, leading to the rivers being starved of oxygen and further detrimental impacts on the remaining wildlife. In 2016, the River Trent in Staffordshire was so heavily polluted that it resulted in the death of an estimated 15,000 fish and could have been detrimental to human health if the sewage had reached a human water source. The spread of diseases like E-coli, diarrhoea and hepatitis A are easily spread within contaminated water [2].


India

India is one of the fastest urbanising and developing countries with the second highest population (1.37 bn pop.) following closely behind China (1.4 bn pop.). India is estimated to have 40% of urbanised population in 2030 with a current value around 35% [3], causing a significant strain to water infrastructure. Indian cities did not have the capacity to host all the migrants coming in from rural areas over recent decades since the independence from the UK. This allowed the creation of unregulated and unplanned shanty towns throughout cities particularly in larger cities like Mumbai.

India is one of the fastest urbanising and developing countries with the second highest population (1.37 bn pop.) following closely behind China (1.4 bn pop.). India is estimated to have 40% of urbanised population in 2030 with a current value around 35% [3], causing a significant strain to water infrastructure. Indian cities did not have the capacity to host all the migrants coming in from rural areas over recent decades since the independence from the UK. This allowed the creation of unregulated and unplanned shanty towns throughout cities particularly in larger cities like Mumbai.

Daharavi, an area of Mumbai, built on mangrove swamplands, and is one of the most densely populated areas in the world with a population density of 277,136/km2. These regions of shanty towns have little to no sanitation, with the only form of waste removal often an uncovered ditch running by the side of the road.



An estimated 70% of surface water is unsuitable for consumption and everyday 40 million litres of untreated wastewater enter various forms of water bodies. These figures are significantly impactful to economies downstream. Farmlands downstream from polluted water bodies experience 9% reduction in revenue and 16% decrease in crop yields [4]. Furthermore, the wastewater issue is detrimental to the health of Indian citizens. Thirty-eight million people suffer from waterborne diseases such as typhoid and hepatitis each year. For children under 5 causes, more deaths are caused by poor water quality than Aids, tuberculosis and measles combined [4].


As a result of poor water quality, the Indian economy suffers, resulting in a decrease in GDP and economic stagnation. Eighty Billion dollars is the cost of environmental degradation per year with an additional $9 billion per year in medical costs.


Solutions

Custom Enzymes have solutions for remediation of wastewater pollution in rivers as well as in wastewater treatment plants. Custom E PURE-AERO and Custom E PURE-ANAERO can be used in aerobic wastewater treatment plants and anaerobic wastewater treatment plants respectfully. These enzymes can cope with high quantities of organic material therefore improving the capacity of the system as well as increasing the efficiency. The wastewater will also be less odorous, making the area around the facilities kinder to humans and other wildlife. For the situation in the UK, where the capacity of wastewater plants causes the increased discharges of untreated effluent, the use of these enzymatic formulations the ability of the enzymes to work on higher number of organic waste will decrease the untreated effluent discharged into rivers and other water bodies.


Custom E BIOALGAE is a control enzyme which aids in the remediation of environments affected by toxic algal blooms. In events of wastewater pollution increasing the nutrients needed for the rapid growth of algae this formulation will aid in biodegrading the product without affecting the environment and is active against gram positive and negative bacteria. Custom E BIOALGAE is water soluble and can be deployed by any form of sprayer system directly onto the affected area.


2. Oil Spills

Oil has become the natural resource which is the most powerful at driving modern economies forward. Oil can boost a countries economy from being undeveloped to the forefront of technology, as is seen in the Middle East. Although oil can bring economic prosperity, it can also lead to wars where the political system of a country can be corrupted by foreign forces to secure lucrative oil deals. With such demand on oil, the infrastructure is incredibly well developed with supply chains carefully managed so as not to cause any conflicts for the supplier or end customer. This supply chain is also incredibly fragile with many trade routes passing through narrow straights, channels, and canals. As seen in March 2021, the Suez Canal was blocked by a container ship causing oil prices to increase in the western hemisphere [5].


Moving forward with the theme of shipping there are currently 98,140 ships in the world fleet accounting for 2,061,944 dead-weight tons (DWT) [6]. In relation to the DWT, oil tankers account for 29% of the total in 2020. In addition, oil tankers are the largest average vessels in the world’s oceans with the longest being the Knock Nevis (TT Seawise Giant). With a greater number of ships sailing the chances of oil spills happening might seem higher, but this has not been the case. International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF) is a non-profit organization aiding in oil spill clean-up and compensation, they have been compiling oil spill statistics since the Torrey Canyon oil spill in 1968. The most recent statistics (2020) shows that the number of oil spills have decreased to an average of 6.3/annum in

the last 10 years compared to an average of 78.8/annum. This shows great progress in safety standards, but the fact is that the formula is not perfect and there are still major oil spills happening every year such as the very recent Mauritius spill in 2020 and Sanchi, 2018 [7].




Another opportunity oil can leak is through pipelines, this can happen in the process of extraction or transportation to and from a refinery. The leaks in pipelines can occur over land or offshore and each cause different environmental and economic effects but either way, the ocean is the overall net loser. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the 20th April 2010 is the largest oil leak ever, around 8-31% larger than the largest oil leak previously [8].


Deepwater Horizon


This catastrophe was caused by high-pressure methane from the well, which expanded into the marine riser and up to the drilling rig [9]. This gas ignited and caused an explosion that engulfed the entire rig with flames and smoke. The well which the rig was connected to was 4,993 ft below sea level and then extended a further 18,000 ft into the rock. The well was sealed off for future exploration, but the seal was designed incorrectly that it could not handle the pressure. Two days after the explosion, the oil rig capsized and sank. This is significant to the oil spill as the riser, which was injecting the well with drilling mud, ruptured. Without the drilling mud, there was no force to counteract the pressure caused by the oil and natural gas. The oil spill peaked at 60,000 barrels per day although BP claimed it was only around 1,000 barrels per day [10].



Secondly, a failsafe, which is designed to close the channel, malfunctioned. This mechanism is the rig’s blowout preventer (BOP) working to prevent the oil and/or gas from being released from the well. Devastatingly It was destroyed due to the immense pressure bending the pipe. BP attempted many methods of containment including a containment dome and drilling mud once again, but they were unsuccessful [11]. Around 2 months after the disaster an apparatus called the Lower Marine Riser Package (LMRP) was deployed and allowed BP to siphon around 15,000 barrels a day into a tanker [8]. The success of the procedures mentioned above allowed the way for a bottom kill which permanently sealed the well by pumping cement through a parallel channel which eventually intersected the original well. This proved safe enough to be a permanent solution. Although the main well has been closed off there are still several smaller outlets where oil occasionally spills into the Gulf of Mexico, ultimately making this only a semi-permanent solution [12].


Mauritius

On July 25th, 2020, MV Wakashio ran aground in the Southeast of the island of Mauritius. The ship was carrying around 4,000 tonnes of oil where over 1,000 tonnes had been spilled into the ocean [13]. This certain oil spill is not the largest oil spill in terms of quantity, but it can cause the largest damage to nature, and it could have long-lasting consequences. Two protected marine ecosystems were situated very close to the incident and therefore this spill has massive international conservation consequences [14]. The wind and currents conditions additionally worsen the situation as the oil is being carried into these regions of great biodiversity importance [15].


Coral-bleaching is often related to the death of coral due to increased water temperatures, but it can also be a result of oil spills [16]. Corals are a safe harbour to many young fish and other smaller marine life. Any damage to the corals will cause devastating effects to the local ecology and therefore directly affect global food chains. The oil also managed to penetrate the local mangrove forest which are also important fish nurseries.

The initial response to clean up the oil spill was done by helicopter to remove the oil from the ship that had not been leaked yet [17]. Ocean booms were then set up to contain the oil, many of these booms were made by locals from cane trash and even human hair. Seventy five percent of the oil spill was contained and little reached the shoreline but several water-soluble chemicals dissolved into the water and are more difficult to recover once dispersed [18].



Solutions

Custom E – CRUDE SPILL a formulation used to remediate land and water environments from hydrocarbon crude oil. The enzymes work immediately after addition into the affected region. The carbon structure of the molecules is metabolised by the enzymes and microbes in the formulation. The formulation can cope in harsh environments and still be extremely effective in aiding the remediation of the environment. To apply the enzymatic formulations a spraying apparatus or educator systems from vessels and fire trucks. The methodology of remediation is to start on the outside of the spill and move into the centre as the oil is removed. Another important feature of the enzymes is that the formulation will not stop working on metabolising the hydrocarbons until the very last drop has been remediated. The use of Custom E – CRUDE SPIll is a cheaper solution to the current oil spill remediation methods with the cost of hiring vessels, aircraft and drones contributing to a higher percentage of expenditure.

For each of the case studies mentioned previously the enzymatic formulations would have been able to disperse the oil at a much faster rate than the methods used to clean up each of the disasters. As the Deepwater Horizon would have required the hiring of larger vessels to contain the oil spill to as minimal an area as possible whilst deploying aircraft with firefighting capabilities, the enzymes would tackle the affected area even in the deepest locations. Secondly, as the Mauritian incident was close to the coastline smaller vessels would be possible alongside a fleet on the ground with the solution in backpacks. For the areas just off the coastline it would be beneficial to deploy drones and helicopters.


Tiago Martins



1. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-56590219

2. https://www.envirotech-online.com/news/water-wastewater/9/breaking-news/how-does-sewage-affect-the-environment/40472

3. https://www.statista.com/statistics/271312/urbanization-in-india/

4. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/10/water-pollution-in-india-data-tech-solution/

5. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-56559073

6. https://unctad.org/system/files/official-document/rmt2020ch2_en.pdf

7. https://www.itopf.org/knowledge-resources/data-statistics/statistics/

8. https://www.britannica.com/event/Deepwater-Horizon-oil-spill

9. https://www.scpr.org/news/2010/05/08/14902/bubble-methane-triggered-rig-blast/

10. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-oil-spill/bp-estimates-oil-spill-up-to-100000-barrels-per-day-in-document-idINN1416392020100620

11. https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2010/05/14/engineers_work_to_place_siphon_tube_at_oil_spill_site.html

12. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/bp-oil-spill-still-dont-know-effects-decade-later

13. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02446-7

14. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/mauritius-oil-spill-tanker-watch-video-conservation-ocean-a9670261.html

15. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-53754751

16. https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/story/oil-spill-mauritius-calls-more-efforts-safeguard-coral-reef-ecosystems

17. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-08-10/helicopters-rush-to-clean-major-oil-spill-near-mauritius-coast

18. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02446-7


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