As the backbone of life on our planet, water is one of the most important substances on earth. Humans, animals, and plants all need it to survive. It makes up over 70 percent of our earth’s surface, and yet, our water is threatened daily by pollution.
Among the biggest threats to clean waterways is oil pollution. According to a 2003 study, the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences reported that 343,200,000 gallons of oil were released into the sea worldwide (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2015). Of this, 52 percent is attributed to human activity.
Oil in our waterways poses a wide range of environmental problems. For example, the largest oil spill in the US occurred in 1989 when the Exxon Valdez tanker ran aground in Alaska (Figure 1). Within six hours, the ship spilled over 10 million gallons of crude oil, which killed an estimated 900 bald eagles, 250,000 sea birds, 2,800 sea otters and 300 harbor seals. The spill affected more than 1,100 mile