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Inventors Asked To Help Oil Clean Up

July 2, 2010

Inventors’ ideas are being used in an effort to try and clean Florida beaches of the oil that has begun to creep up into the sand.

According to a report by the Associated Press (AP), 18 U.S. and Canadian inventors displayed their inventions to save Florida’s beaches Thursday in a high-stakes “clean’off” under the critical gaze of evaluators.  They were selected from over 400 other inventors who submitted their ideas.

“If we can find some gems out here, we hope we can start using them ASAP. We are looking for something that spreads easily and is effective. The answer isn’t just one tool, we need a lot of tools for different weather conditions, for out in the water, on the beaches, in the marshes,” Darryl Boudreau, assistant director for the Northwest Florida district of the state Department of Environmental Protection, told AP.

Hurricane Alex did not stop dozens of local, state, Coast Guard and other officials from coming to watch. 

Kalty Vazquez of Miami held a bucket in one hand as he spread a green-sandy substance called GreenTech over his plot.  Vazquez raked through the tar and GreenTech and scooped the sand with a strainer, leaving clean sand behind. 

Another group blanketed the sand with a cotton-fiber roll.  The idea was for the oil and tar to adhere to the cotton when it was rolled up.  However, the group said it worked best when heavy machinery rolled over the cotton and pressed it into the sand. 

Bill Vasden Jr. has an oil spill solution that he grows on 1,500 acres of land in Tampa.  The biodiesel and feed starch farmer believes kenaf, a kind of grass, will help the oil spill clean up efforts. 

He said that auto mechanics have used the material to clean oil from their floors for a long time.

“It’s a fibrous grass, it’s renewable and we can burn it for energy,” he said. “We have 1,500 acres of it already.”

Buck Lee, chairman of the Santa Rosa Island Authority, was among those who came to check out the inventors’ ideas.

“Whoever invents the magic dust is going to be a millionaire,” Lee said, as he handled phone call after phone call from people concerned about the oil-covered beach.

Jeff Powell came up with an idea of a rake that traps tar balls and filters out the sand.  In about 30 minutes he raked up his plot of sand and left it clean.

John Green of Canada uses peat moss as his solution.  He showed off Sphagsorb, a microbe-enhanced peat moss that has helped clean up Canadian oil spills.  He said ten pounds of the product could collect about 40 pounds of oil and tar. 

After an hour of being treated with different inventions, the beach was left much cleaner than when they started.

However, evaluators did not say whether they would choose any of the ideas or how quickly the public might see them in action.

Image Caption: An oil-coated feather washed onto a Pensacola beach June 23rd. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Emily F. Alley.

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