Monday, May 10, 2010

Hair Raising: Monday, May 10 BP Oil Spill Update

"If it seems BP is making up its cleanup plans as it goes along
— it is."

-- David Pettit, Politico

1. Sunday, Beachy, Sunday


"I always expect Saturday to be the best day of the week," Daniel says in an old Glenda Jackson film. On Pensacola Beach, Sunday was just as good as Saturday. Although the oil slick has begun licking at the Louisiana and Alabama coastlines, so far it continues to stay away from Northwest Florida.

The public beaches near Pensacola were reasonably crowded yesterday, the parking lots were full, the fish were biting, the water was calm and clear, and there was neither sign nor scent of oil. (Click photo above.)

2. Saturday Seminar.

The day before, however, "about 100 people gathered at Pensacola Beach on Saturday to hear a panel discuss the science of the Gulf oil spill and its potential effects on the Pensacola area." As Travis Griggs reported for the News Journal:
Ian MacDonald, an oceanography professor at Florida State University; Dick Snyder, director of the Center for Environmental Diagnostics and Bioremediation at the University of West Florida; and Dr. Richard Weaver, a Pensacola medical doctor, were the speakers at the Hilton Pensacola Beach Gulf Front discussion.
Questions flew and more answers were heard than beach people previously had been given. Among the most compelling was Prof. McDonald's description of what we can expect. It won't be like the "devastating" Exxon Valdez oil slick of 1989, he predicted. As reporter Griggs summarized --
MacDonald said the Florida coast won't get that kind of "black tide" effect from this spill — this leak is too slow and is spread across too much water for Valdez-type oil slicks to reach Florida.

The most likely scenario is that Pensacola Beach will be exposed to patches of oil sheen in coming weeks and will have tar balls washing up on shore for several months. It is possible, but less likely, that a heavier oil froth will wash up on area beaches at some time.
'Several months' struck some in the audience as a blessing. But as Griggs writes, "Experts are still uncertain how many, or for how long, tar balls will wash up on Pensacola-area beaches. They could wash up occasionally for years."

3. The Corpus Christie Hop.

A "Viewpoint" piece by Pensacola resident Scott O. Davis describes in fascinating detail what that really means, based on his time at the Naval Training Station at Corpus Christie back in 1982-83:
The natural beauty of their beach was marred by black and dark brown clumps of oil embedded in the sands. In the water, small globs of oil were floating and would adhere to one's swimsuit and body. These "globs and clumps" ranged in visible size from about the size of a BB pellet to that of a softball.

Upon exiting the water, the following drill applied: My wife and I inspected each other's bodies for the presence of black, gummy tar spots and applied nail polish remover. After walking from the beach to our car, we then scrubbed the black spots off our feet before entering the car.

These oil spots didn't come off right away; it took a bit of elbow grease (we used cotton balls or paper towels; a cloth towel would be ruined). One could witness in the beach parking lots what became known as the "Corpus Christi Hop," as fellow bathers would hop about on one foot while trying to clean the goo off the other.
We recall She Who Must Be Obeyed had a similar experience a few years ago when she was competing in a statewide women's golf tournament on the Atlantic coast in South Florida. She was appalled to discover that every hotel room was supplied with a guest basket filled with something called "Tar-Off."

It came in cute little cellophane packets, similar to what you might expect to find containing, say, a couple of dabs of toothpaste or hair conditioner for the convenience of guests. Only, these packets contained a solvent powerful enough to scrape the paint off the Statute of Liberty. In that particular beach community, it seems, tarballs and "gummy tar spots" were an unavoidable hazard when beaching it.

As the ancient wisdom goes, the gods never shut a door in your face without opening a window. Some enterprising ex-boat captain, no doubt, soon will be scratching out a living on Pensacola Beach selling abrasive solvents in attractive, floral-scented packages to the half dozen tourists still willing to visit Pensacola Beach.

We strongly suggest, however, a more attractive name than "Tar-Off." How about "Toe Tidy?"

4. Junk Science.

As millions of gallons of BP oil continued sloshing around the Gulf over the weekend, at least one central truth has begun to sink in with the public: No one on Planet Earth really knows how to quickly stop BP's underwater gusher from growing exponentially worse over the coming weeks and months. As David Pettit of Politico says, BP is making it up as it goes along.

The inescapable truth is that the oil industry's drilling technology and appetite for profits has outstripped its safety and mitigation technology:
Oil companies can now search for oil in the open ocean, drilling down thousands of feet beneath the ocean floor. But when there is a spill — and spills are inevitable — those companies still use cleanup techniques no more sophisticated than the bales of hay used to sop up oil on the Santa Barbara beaches in 1969.
Worse, BP Corp. has been lying about this to federal regulators. As the Wall Street Journal reports this morning, "BP assured regulators last year that oil would come ashore only in a small area of Louisiana, even in the event of a spill much larger than the current one."
BP's general spill plan, which was updated last summer, shows that the company's claimed abilities were out of sync with the realities of the spill. Under the plan, BP said that the worst spill from a mobile drilling operation would come from a lease called the Mississippi Canyon 462, about 33 miles off the Louisiana coast. A blowout of that lease could discharge a mammoth 250,000 barrels a day, BP said, 50 times the estimated flow of the current leak. Yet BP claimed to have in place sufficient booms, stocks of dispersants and skimmers to deal with a spill far in excess of the volume it is now struggling to contain.
* * *
Even in the case of the worst spill, BP said, there was only a 3% chance that oil would come ashore after a month in any part of the Gulf other than Plaquemines, La., which juts into the Gulf south of New Orleans
With Friday's failure of containment dome, experts now are left with no better ideas than "junk" for stopping the oil gusher. As the Associated Press reports --
Top hats and junk shots are on the list of possible next steps as BP, casting about after a 100-ton containment box failed, settles in for a long fight to stop its uncontrolled oil gusher a mile under the Gulf of Mexico.

Engineers at BP PLC were wrestling with a shopping list of ways to plug the well or siphon off the spewing crude, including a smaller containment box, dubbed a top hat, and injecting debris including shredded rubber into the well as a stopper, called a junk shot.
* * *
The engineers appear to be "trying anything people can think of" to stop the leak, said Ed Overton, a LSU professor of environmental studies.

The Miami Herald reports (free subscrption req'd) the "junk shot" ploy would include shooting "a bunch of debris, shredded up tires, golf balls and things like that... into the preventer itself and see if they can clog it up and stop the leak.'' Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen said on some Bobblespeak talk show yesterday that this would not be an "exotic" solution.

We heartily agree. As the author of a yet-to-be-written future book titled, Home Repair By Brute Force, we know exactly what kind of solution this is. It's informed by the same kind of thinking that leads us around the house to use a butter knife in place of a screw driver and a souvenir volcanic rock from the Mt St. Helens when we can't find a hammer. And it likely will produce the same disheartening results.

5. Hairy Solutions.

A beloved relative in the Far West calls to our attention some weird-sounding solutions that go beyond even what we might try. Top of the list is human hair stuffed into old nylon stockings. Seriously.

As AFP reports:
People from around the world have been giving the hair off their heads, the fur off their pets' backs, and the tights off their legs to make booms and mats to mop up the oily mess spewing out of the sunken BP-leased Deepwater Horizon oil platform which is lying on the seabed of the Gulf of Mexico.
* * *

"People from France, England, Spain, Brazil, Australia, all over Canada and the United States have signed up," Lisa Gautier, co-founder of the Matter of Trust charity which links up recycled goods -- like hair -- with causes that need them, and is coordinating the collection of hair, fur and tights for the oil slick.

"There are 370,000 hair salons sending hair, 100,000 pet groomers, alpaca and sheep farmers, and the other day we had a huge group of transvestites, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, who donated their very long nylons," Gautier told AFP.

US nationwide pet supplies chain Petco joined the effort on Friday, as oil began to wash ashore on Louisiana's beaches.

"We have nearly 1,000 grooming salons across the country and think we can ship up to a ton of fur a day. We can make a real difference with this," Petco spokeswoman Brooke Simon told AFP.

Holy Oil Spill! As if Pensacola Beach doesn't have enough to worry about, what with the prospect of tarballs and oily sludge cakes washing up on our beaches, now we also have to look out for pantyhose filled with old hair and dog fur?

Apparently, the idea began with an Alabama hairdresser, Phil McCrory, "who had an 'aha' moment after seeing Alaskan sea otters saturated with oil after the Exxon Valdez spill in 1998." It strikes us it might have been more of an "Oh, Lord, no! Call the men in white coats" moment.

But there are those who disagree. There's now an environmental non-profit foundation, "Matter of Trust," that's "an International Natural Fiber Recycling system" collecting hair and hosery from all over the world to "stimulate green jobs and the textile industry!"

On second thought, McCrory's idea is probably no crazier than BP's solution of hitting old golf balls into the leaking well. Such is the state of human knowledge about oil leak remediation at BP's mile-deep well spillage that the engineers even may soon be turning to us to borrow our butter knives.

They're welcome to them. Any day now, we'll be able to make do around the house with a sharpened piece of Pensacola Beach pantyhose, stiffened by hairy oil sludge.
minor edit 5-10 pm

3 comments:

Sioux said...

Check out this link for a simple solution: http://video.godlikeproductions.com/video/CWRoberts_Presentation_2wmv

Zinc Shampoo said...

This is very long article. Not able to read complete but I get one point that the author expect Saturday to be the best day of the week.

vwlair said...

Why not slowly freeze the BOP and oil in it? Dry ice or refridgeration units.