Exploring the Difference Between An Oil and Silt Containment Boom

 In Industry Articles, Sediment Control Products, Turbidity Barriers

An oil containment boom and a silt containment boom are both used to protect the integrity of water sources near job sites. Since these products resemble one another on the surface, it’s easy to confuse them. In most cases, however, oil and silt containment booms are not interchangeable.

floating silt containment boom

Silt Containment Boom

Purpose: A silt containment boom has many names including turbidity barrier, turbidity curtain, silt curtain, etc. Its primary function is to contain silt and sediment stirred up in waterways alongside construction work. This prevents contamination outside the contained area.

Types: There are three basic types of turbidity barriers – Type I, Type II, and Type III. A Type l silt containment boom is ideal for low-intensity environments, where the impact of waves and current is very low. Type ll turbidity curtains are best suited for mild water conditions. Type III silt curtains are the most durable of the three types, they are made of stronger fabrics to accommodate harsher waves and currents.

Depth: Skirt depths of silt curtains can vary, depending on the aquatic environment in which the barrier is deployed. Based on this environment and how much sediment needs to be contained, the skirt must either reach or remain within a foot of the floor to be an effective barrier. 

Fabric: Like with depth, the fabric used to make a silt containment boom can also vary depending on the needs of your project. Turbidity barriers can either be permeable, meaning water can freely flow through the barrier while still containing silt and sediment, or completely impermeable. Permeable skirts are typically made from mesh, geotextile fabrics.

Uses: A silt containment boom is best used for protecting waters from piling, excavation, dredging, and operating machinery near water. 


floating boom

Oil Containment Boom

Purpose: The primary function of an oil containment boom is to prevent water contamination from oil and hydrocarbons, not from silt and sediment. Though oil containment booms can be used effectively as a silt containment boom in cases of shallow waters, that is not its main goal. 

Types: Oil containment booms can be deployed in two different locations: inland and offshore. Inland or nearshore oil booms are made for calmer waters. Offshore or open water booms are designed to handle more intense water conditions. Each oil containment boom is created based on the specific needs of the project at hand, using standardized hardware. Due to the nature of its job and the dangers of oil contamination, oil containment booms tend to be more durable than silt containment booms.

Depth: Oil containment booms generally have shorter skirts than turbidity barriers. This is mainly because oil and other hydrocarbons float at the surface while silt and sediment are spread throughout the water. 

Fabric: Since oil and other hydrocarbons are liquid, oil containment booms cannot allow the passage of any water through its skirt. Oil containment booms are completely impermeable and made from heavy, durable fabric coated with urethane or PVC material.

Uses:  Oil containment booms are used to control, contain, or divert an oil spill. Oil containment booms are often used with other spill containment products, such as absorbent booms, to contain oil spills and maximize water protection efforts.

Oil or Silt Containment Boom With IWT Cargo-Guard

In this line of work, it’s necessary to understand the importance of protecting the environment from water pollution. IWT Cargo-Guard specializes in creating a wide range of environmental protection products, including those meant for spill containment. Not sure where to start? Our team of experts can help you decide between an oil containment boom or a silt containment boom. To discuss the needs of your specific project, contact us today!


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