Oil spills in industrialized cities pose a significant threat to their urban water environment. The largest city in Canada, the city of Toronto, has an average 300–500 oil spills per year with an average total volume of about 160,000 L/year. About 45% of the spills was eventually cleaned up. Given the enormous amount of remaining oil entering into the fragile urban ecosystem, it is important to develop an effective pollution prevention and control plan for the city. A Geographic Information System (GIS) planning model has been developed to characterize oil spills and determine preventive and control measures available in the city. A database of oil spill records from 1988 to 1997 was compiled and geo-referenced. Attributes to each record such as spill volume, oil type, location, road type, sector, source, cleanup percentage, and environmental impacts were created. GIS layers of woodlots, wetlands, watercourses, Environmental Sensitive Areas, and Areas of Natural and Scientific Interest were obtained from the local Conservation Authority. By overlaying the spill characteristics with the GIS layers, evaluation of preventive and control solutions close to these environmental features was conducted. It was found that employee training and preventive maintenance should be improved as the principal cause of spills was attributed to human errors and equipment failure. Additionally, the cost of using oil separators at strategic spill locations was found to be $1.4 million. The GIS model provides an efficient planning tool for urban oil spill management. Additionally, the graphical capability of GIS allows users to integrate environmental features and spill characteristics in the management analysis.

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