Oil spills near the shoreline are quite detrimental to marine organisms. In some instances, tidal flushing alone is enough to prevent harmful levels of dispersion. However, there are instances where there are high mortality rates of organisms due to high toxicity levels. Read on as we dive into critical information on shoreline oil spill clean up.

Oil Spill Clean Up


The term wetlands span to areas such as bogs, swamps, and both inland and upland marshes. Wetlands are extremely sensitive to spills since they are home to tons of species and usually collect run-off from their surroundings. In order to clean spills up in this area, berms are used to either divert or contain spills.

Additionally, in-situ burning and sorbents as well as bioremediation can be used to aid with efforts. While heavy equipment can also be used, it is not always practical since it can cause further damage to the environment.

Beaches And Rocky Cliffs

Due to their natural makeup, rocky shores are not as sensitive to spills. However, wildlife can still be affected. Since rocks do not easily absorb oil when spills occur, most are kept offshore and deposits usually undergo biodegradation.

Cleanup efforts in this area are done in a manual form using vacuuming, flushing, and removing contaminated debris. Some situations in these areas also require bioremediation in order to speed up the degradation process.

Gravel And Sand Beaches

Unlike other areas, sand and gravel beaches are more vulnerable since they are highly used for commerce and recreational purposes. Oil spilled into the water, having been pushed by winds and currents, often reaches the shore. Oil may strand at the high tide line, leaving black lines or globs of oil on the beach as the tide recedes. Thick layers of oil may coat rocks, beaches, or plants. Mammals and birds use these areas for nesting and can be deeply affected.

To aid with cleanup efforts, heavy equipment is used to remove contaminated sediments. When contaminated portions are removed, they can be easily replaced with fresh materials. Other cleanup methods include sorbents, flushing, vacuums, solidifiers, and in-situ burning if need be.

Coastal Waters

Spills in coastal waters that are less than 30 feet should be handled with care. This is due to the fact that oil spills can easily impact the entire ecosystem including kelp, seagrass beds, and corals. In this instance, oil can be burned off or even recovered by skimmers. The use of dispersants is highly discouraged since the shallower portion of the ecosystem can be affected by dispersed oil.

Mudflats, Mangroves, And Salt Marshes

These environments tend to fall into the most sensitive habitat. This is due to the fact that mangroves and marshes are the most productive ecosystems in the world since they are the ultimate breeding ground for important species. However, machine response equipment shouldn’t be used since it has the potential to cause serious damage to the environment.

Cleanup efforts are usually focused on using sorbents, vacuums, and bioremediation. Berms are also used but must be handled with care. In some cases, dispersants may be used if they do not possess threats to the environment.

Marinas And Shorelines

When open water spills occur, the main focus is preventing the spill from reaching the shore, reducing the impacts on marine life, and speeding up the degradation process. If there is no special animal or plant life in this area, oil spill efforts are conducted in a different manner. Depending on natural dispersion, removing the oil is the main concern.

As such, skimmers and booms are used to remove and contain when necessary. If aggressive efforts are needed, cleaning agents, flushing, and bioremediation is carried out. In some smaller instances, sorbents can be used to add the finishing touch.

How Best To Go About Cleaning Up A Shoreline Once A Spill Happens
While no two spills are ever alike, most methods work for different situations. If pipes burst or ships happen to sink, responders are required to stop and contain oil spills, as well as stop the spreading or already spilled oil. However, depending on the ocean current or even the weather at sea, the use of booms is sometimes not the most effective.

When it comes to dealing with an oil spill, a combination of different methods is needed. These are as follows:


Flushing usually involves the removal of stranded oil by flushing it out with water. After this occurs, the oil can then be recovered with ease. However, from previous experience, it should be noted that caution should be taken when dealing with both temperature and pressure. This prevents further damage to the shoreline.


Booms are basically floating barriers that prevent the spill from reaching the beach. They can also be used to collect the oil after it has been flushed.


Industrial grade vacuums suck the oil out of the vegetation and beach.


Sorbents are specially designed materials that absorb oil only. ADsorb-it is unlike most sorbents on the market because it is made from waste, oils retained in the fabric matrix can be recovered and reused or recycled and the fabric/product itself can be reused over and over again.

Bioremediation Agents And Shoreline Cleaners

These consist of chemically enhanced cleaners that require special approval before they can be used. The agents work as they soften and then lift the oil off of surfaces. In the case of bioremediation agents, these can be thought of as catalysts that speed up the rate of degradation. Before these are used, sorbents and booms are usually used as a primary cleanup method.


Controlled burning is done to remove oil from the surface of water or vegetation.

Manual Recovery

This cleanup method requires shovels, rakes, buckets, and other cleaning supplies to remove the oil. While it may be very labor-intensive, these tools work for remote areas that don’t have road access.

Mechanical Removal

Only when damages are not caused then responders result to using heavy machinery. Some of these machines include front-end loaders, backhoes, and others.

Filtration Fabric Fencing

ADsorb-it fences were used to remediate the disastrous effects of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in 2010. The fences were used to protect some of the most affected and threatened areas in the gulf by adsorbing the oil before it had the chance to reach the shoreline. It was easy to deploy and required very little maintenance.


Oil spills can be quite detrimental to our aqueous environment and shorelines since they affect both plant and animal life. While there are effective methods for cleanup, ADsorb-it products can be used to deal with the issue before it gets out of control!