Sunday, August 10, 2014

Used oil and its effects on the environment

-- Used oil and its effects on the environment --

 * Today's article was written by: Greg Chapman of Greg Chapman Motors - a knowledgeable and leading provider of used cars, trucks, and SUV’s. Since 1959, Chapman Motors has supplied reliable used cars in Austin and the surrounding. For more information please visit

Motor oil leaked from individual vehicles—or outright dumped by homeowners and commercial garages inevitably finds its way into local water bodies. Topsoil and natural vegetation would ordinarily filter many of these pollutants out, but the impermeable pavement that covers much of the surface where these pollutants originate carries it right into storm drains and into streams, rivers, lakes and the ocean where it can poison marine life—which we might eat—as well as entire riparian or coastal ecosystems.

This pollution also finds its way into underground aquifers that supply our drinking water, so reducing it is a human health measure and could also save municipalities millions of dollars a year in drinking water treatment facilities and operational expenses.

While government agencies try to craft and implement development and zoning standards to help reduce storm water runoff problems caused by commercial and industrial entities, there is still much that individuals can do to reduce their impact as well. Indeed, upwards of 40 percent of oil pollution in the U.S. comes from the improper disposal of used motor oil by individuals.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s definition of used oil is as follows: Used oil is any oil that has been refined from crude oil or any synthetic oil that has been used and as a result of such use is contaminated by physical or chemical impurities. Simply put, used oil is exactly what its name implies—any petroleum-based or synthetic oil that has been used. During normal use, impurities such as dirt, metal scrapings, water, or chemicals can get mixed in with the oil, so that in time the oil no longer performs well. Eventually, this used oil must be replaced with virgin or re-refined oil to do the job at hand EPA's used oil management standards include a three-pronged approach to determine if a substance meets the definition of used oil. To meet EPA's definition of used oil, a substance must meet each of the following three criteria:

1. Origin — the first criterion for identifying used oil is based on the origin of the oil. Used oil must have been refined from crude oil or made from synthetic materials. Animal and vegetable oils are excluded from EPA's definition of used oil.

2. Use — the second criterion is based on whether and how the oil is used. Oils used as lubricants, hydraulic fluids, heat transfer fluids, buoyants, and for other similar purposes are considered used oil. Unused oil such as bottom clean-out waste from virgin fuel oil storage tanks or virgin fuel oil recovered from a spill, do not meet EPA's definition of used oil because these oils have never been "used." EPA's definition also excludes products used as cleaning agents or solely for their solvent properties, as well as certain petroleum-derived products like antifreeze and kerosene.

3. Contaminants — the third criterion is based on whether or not the oil is contaminated with either physical or chemical impurities. In other words, to meet EPA's definition, used oil must become contaminated as a result of being used. This aspect of EPA's definition includes residues and contaminants generated from handling, storing, and processing used oil. Physical contaminants could include metal shavings, sawdust, or dirt. Chemical contaminants could include solvents, halogens, or saltwater.

Once oil has been used, it can be collected, recycled, and used over and over again. An estimated 380 million gallons of used oil are recycled each year. Recycled used oil can sometimes be used again for the same job or can take on a completely different task. For example, used motor oil can be re-refined and sold at the store as motor oil or processed for furnace fuel oil. Aluminum rolling oils also can be filtered on site and used over again.
Recycling Used Oil Is Good for the Environment and the Economy :

• Re-refining used oil takes only about one-third the energy of refining crude oil to lubricant quality.

• It takes 42 gallons of crude oil, but only one gallon of used oil, to produce 2 ½ quarts of new, high-quality lubricating oil.

• One gallon of used oil processed for fuel contains about 140,000 British Thermal Units (BTUs) of energy.
To prevent your own oil leaks and spills, take the following into consideration:

• Take steps to prevent leaks and spills. Keep machinery, equipment containers, and tanks in good working condition and be careful when transferring used oil. Have absorbent materials available on site.

• If a spill or leak occurs, stop the oil from flowing at the source. If a leak from a container or tank can’t be stopped, put the oil in another holding container or tank.

• Contain spilled oil. For example, containment can be accomplished by erecting absorbent berms or by spreading an absorbent over the oil 

• Clean up the oil and recycle the used oil as you would have before it was spilled. If recycling is not possible, you first must make sure the used oil is not a hazardous waste and dispose of it appropriately. All used cleanup materials, from rags to absorbent booms, that contain free-flowing used oil also must be handled according to the used oil management standards. Remember, all leaked and spilled oil collected during cleanup must be handled as used oil. If you are a used oil handler, you should become familiar with these cleanup methods. They may also be part of a spill response action plan.

•Remove, repair, or replace the defective tank or container immediately.

By taking care not to contribute to the problem of used oil being improperly disposed of, you can help maintain our clean and healthy drinking water for years to come.

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