Management of Water and Beach Pollution

Oil spills present a major challenge to combating adverse effects of human activities on the environment. Such effects for instance took place during the Gulf War in 1991 when the oil spill in the Persian Gulf destroyed various desalination plants that ensured fresh water was available to countries such as Saudi Arabia (Lewis & Daling 2001). Recently the BP oil spill in the Mexican gulf also has been associated with adverse impacts such death of wildlife living along the coast and destruction of habitant with such adverse effects estimated to last for at least a decade following the spill (US Fish & Wildlife Service 2010). Due to the widespread environmental effects of oil spills, efforts to deal with oil spills could be bettered by involving various stakeholders at the local, state and federal levels (US Fish & Wildlife Service 2010). In this paper two submissions on the level of government at which oil clean up can be better structured are addressed. First the paper presents a submission on oil cleanup involving the local government and then presents a second submission in support of the Federal government involvement.

Management of Oil Spills through a Local Government Approach

Different kinds of oil spills could be better managed by effective use of various resources present within the local community.  During an oil spill emergency, there is a greater possibility that a large number of members who will arrive at the scene to participate in response activities are derived from the local community. To enhance the effect of such community responses to oil spill, there need to be adequate management provided at a short time which may not be availed by other levels of government apart from the local government in a timely manner. To be able to provide effective management during oil spill response activities, the local government thus needs to be adequately financed. This submission argues out the importance of local government in ensuring oil spill response activities are effective through such ways as providing timely training and supervision and ensuring the safety of volunteers.

Use of community oil spill response teams (COSRs) has been suggested to better oil spill response strategy (Nuka Research and Planning Group 2005). COSRs are comprised of local citizens who offer clean-up services for “oil spilled in the waters upon which they rely for income, recreation and subsistence” (Nuka Research and Planning Group 2005, p. 7). For success of response teams structured in such a manner the teams need to be trained to offer first line of response to protect areas in their communities that would otherwise be subjected to high oil spill effects (Nuka Research and Planning Group 2005). Further the effectiveness of these teams is also brought about by the network of these teams in a region that can work together in the events where the oil spillage is beyond the area covered by one team (Nuka Research and Planning Group 2005).

An advantage of using such local communities in combating oil spillage is their enhanced knowledge of the local conditions and geography (Nuka Research and Planning Group 2005). In the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska such small groups comprised of local citizens was shown to be effective (Skinner & Reilly 1989). Further to their enhanced knowledge of the local environment where the oil had been spilled thus allowing the groups to use relevant response strategies, such groups were highly motivated to engage in the response activities aggressively to rescue their land and water from distraction (Skinner & Reilly 1989; Nuka Research and Planning Group 2005). Such positive results with small groups evidence the need to target funding towards the training of response professionals within the community to enable them coordinate other members in response activities thus improving the effectiveness of the groups.

A second advantage of using a local government approach in managing oil spills is that it avoids delays associated with bureaucratic processes. By using a local government approach the chain of command for effectuating decisions is shortened thus allowing for timely response could prevent widespread damage by the oil spill (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – NOAA 2002). Thirdly, a local government approach bears the potential of sustaining long-term response activities where such is needed. By sourcing materials and personnel from the local community the local government could establish long-run oil spill management programs at a minimum cost (NOAA 2002; Nuka Research and Planning Group 2005). Use of the local community in combating oil spillage thus provides an effective way to address emergencies curtailing the spread of spillage to far off locations.

Irrespective of these benefits of the local communities use in response strategies for oil spillage, various challenges could curtail their effectiveness. Some types of spillages for instance may require advanced technology that the local community may not have at its disposal (Lewis & Daling 2001; DF Dickins Associates 2004). Lack of adequate support may curtail the effectiveness to which the community response groups can be put into. Such response teams for instance needs resources that enhance their training to make the response to small spills more rapid, training to offer first response to larger spills and resources that allow for optimal maintenance of response equipment (Nuka Research and Planning Group 2005). To address such a challenge the resources need to be provided through a decentralized system that ensures widespread reach. Such a decentralized system of resource allocation can only be better provided through the local governments.

For efforts at the local government level to provide effective solutions for combating oil spillage there needs to be enhanced partnerships between the government and industry players. Such partnership for instance can improve the level of preparedness by ensuring a minimum limit on equipment stockpiles are maintained and continued training to community response teams is availed (Moller & Santner 1997). Through the partnership with private organizations the local government can also improve the community response team training programs by establishing agreements with such organizations to provide training on oil spillage responses as part of their social corporate response programs (Nuka Research and Planning Group 2005). Such programs would be an effective strategy as the local citizens who also double as customers for these organizations can form a positive image of the companies due to their concern in bettering the environment. The effectiveness of a local government approach to combating oil spillage is thus subject effective partnership between the government and the private sector to provide the community response teams with adequate support for rapid and effective response to various types of oil spills.

Oil spill management program could involve various government levels for their effects to be realized. In this submission the paper argues for the use a local government approach to manage oil spills. Advantages identified with a local government approach include the quick response that would avoid various bureaucratic processes if the contingency plan is to be coordinated from a higher government level. Through such an approach a timely response could prevent the oil spread from spreading to distant places thus curtailing the damage that the spill would otherwise result in. Secondly since most volunteers for response activities would come from the local community where the oil spill has taken place; a well funded local authority with the support of organizations operating in the region could provide effective volunteer services that ensure effective cleaning is carried out. The third advantage of focusing oil spill response activities at the local level is that, such an approach would help sustain a long-term clean out program without incurring significant costs since materials and personnel are sourced and managed locally. Despite these advantages, a local approach may not be prudent to deal with trans-boarder oil spills where the level of resources required may surpass those controlled by the local community. Go to part 2 here.

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