Updated February 11, 2017 | Infoplease Staff. … Major oil spills are bad for the environment because they damage wildlife, marine ecosystems, and coastal environments. Both, large oil spills and medium sized oil spills (7-700 tonnes) are decreasing. The Gulf oil spill is officially the largest accidental spill in world history. Menu. It is of note that 19 of the 20 largest spills recorded occurred before the year 2000. It’s one of the 10 largest onshore oil spills in the country since 2010, when an Enbridge pipeline released more than 800,000 gallons of oil in Michigan, according to the Star Tribune. The following table lists the largest oil spills in U.S. history. A summary of the top 20 major spills that have occurred since the TORREY CANYON in 1967 is given below. Sustainability for All. Spills can also wreak havoc on the economies of coastal communities by forcing the closure of fisheries, driving away tourists, or temporarily shutting down navigation routes. The Atlantic Empress disaster killed 26 crew members and is the largest ship-based oil spill. BACKGROUND. Major Oil Spills . Home. Oil spill, leakage of petroleum onto the surface of a large body of water. Spills can kill wildlife, destroy habitat, and contaminate critical resources in the food chain. The release of oil and chemicals into our coastal waterways is a major problem. The date of the spill, circumstances surrounding the spill, and amount of oil spilled are also given. As the name implies, an oil spill refers to any uncontrolled release of crude oil, gasoline, fuels, or other oil by-products into the environment.Oil spills can pollute land, air, or water. The oil spill caused by Saddam Hussein’s military is the largest oil spill in history. The spill of an estimated 210,000 gallons of crude oil in South Dakota on Thursday from TransCanada’s Keystone Pipeline is one of the 20 largest onshore oil or petroleum product spills since 2010. It occurred in Prince William Sound, Alaska and spilled around 10.8 million gallons (40.8 million liters) and impacted 1,100 miles (1,609 km) of coast. This happened as the worldwide trade of petroleum and gas products increased. Ten Largest Oil Spills in the U.S. In 1991, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein asserted that the nation of Kuwait was historically Iraqi territory and moved his army to take control of the Kuwaiti oil fields. br/>To learn more about large oil spills visit NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration. Rank Date Cause Source Location Spill Volume; 1. Oceanic oil spills became a major environmental problem in the 1960s, chiefly as a result of intensified petroleum exploration and production on continental shelves and the use of supertankers capable of transporting more than 500,000 metric tons of oil. Ixtoc I oil well: 454,000 tons. 2. For example, the Exxon-Valdez oil spill in 1989 was the largest spill in United States history. 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