Oil Spill Cleanup Ideas From Public Flowing to Officials
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The ideas range from anti-matter beamed from satellites to the lowly hay bale. If anything, they show how creative Floridians can get when their way of life is threatened by the worst oil spill in the nation's history.
Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Mike Sole, who is leading the state's response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, invited the public to submit any and all suggestions on May 14. Several hundred have poured in to email@example.com since.
Some of them, including a vermiculite-based oil absorbent offered by a south Florida concrete manufacturer, are under serious consideration.
Many, including vendors hawking chemical dispersants not approved for use, have been quickly dismissed.
"While the state appreciates the concern expressed by Floridians and the ingenuity of those seeking alternative measures to help protect the state's shoreline, it is important to ensure that proposed measures are helpful and not harmful," DEP spokeswoman Amy Graham said in a statement.
Hay bales were nixed by DEP as inappropriate when county emergency managers suggested them last month, but they remain popular with armchair engineers.
An idea to use a submarine filled with concrete was deemed "not feasible." Another involving a "bubble curtain boom" was forwarded to Deepwater Horizon operator BP.
Gov. Charlie Crist is under fire from some critics for not being tough enough on BP or for not responding quickly enough to protect the state's tourism industry.
At least Florida is ahead of the game when it comes to tapping the public's creative energy. Only on Friday did leaders of the federal response team put out a similar public call.
It's clear from the list DEP has compiled that Floridians are eager, even desperate, to help.
Kraig Shook, a specialty concrete manufacturer from Tequesta, is waiting to hear if his product, Earthbond Green, will get the green light.
It was born in 2006 when a hydraulic line in his architectural-elements manufacturing plant burst and spewed a vat of his vermiculite-based concrete mix with oil. The material encapsulated the oil and Shook said he was able to scoop the oil out without dirtying his hands. He didn't think about it again until the April 20 explosion in the Gulf of Mexico that unleashed the Deepwater Horizon slick.
Shook wants to spread the product, which he says is safe enough to swallow, on marshes to protect them from the advancing oil. It can also be tucked into absorbent booms or spread on the surface between layers of booms. Last week, he demonstrated it to the Louisiana Senate.
"It's hydrophobic, it hates water and it loves oil," he said. "It looks like gray shredded paper and cocaine powder. If you were stopped with a batch of it in your car, the cops would definitely call the drug-sniffing dogs."
The material costs about $295 a cubic yard or $17,160 per mile when stuffed into absorbent booms, he said.
"It's not about the money to me," he said. "It's about being able to take my two kids to the beach. They're water babies."
By far the most unconventional idea, using satellites and super computers to zap the spill with a beam that renders the oil harmless, is getting short shrift - at least according to its most ardent proponent, Anthony Brown II of Boynton Beach.
Brown manufactures an activated clay product that drillers use to remove oil from their waste stream. It's being considered by spill responders in Louisiana, he said.
But Brown is convinced that his colleagues at South African-based Solar Sonic Laboratories International have the best answer.
On May 21, he submitted the following explanation to DEP.
"SSLI has perfected a device to capture solar sonic energy and concentrate them through a highly magnetic focal point using ground-based assets that project to conventional satellites which, in combination with various guidance, positioning and targeting hardware, hold the ability to precisely identify a given target matter at molecular level and then manipulate only the molecules of the target matter through the induction of sonic energy or anti matter."
The company has offered to put up millions for a demonstration, but DEP, after a brief e-mail exchange, has deemed the idea "not feasible."
"There is no conventional technology, nor groups of conventional technologies that can deal with this spill," Brown said. "No one has given me a straight answer as to why we're not allowed to test. You would think they are doing everything in their power."