Hay: A Common-Sense Solution to BP Oil Clean-Up?

Oil spill cleanup idea

American ingenuity at its finest!  Clean up the Gulf oil spill, employ the displaced shrimp and charter boats, create additional revenue for farmers, and generate energy – what’s not to like?  While BP and the U.S. Coast Guard are focusing on stopping the continued leak, two men from Florida have figured out how to protect the coastline they love.  Darryl Carpenter, the Vice President and 25 year employee of Florida-based CW Roberts Contracting and Otis Goodson, a sub-contractor, are stirring up the internet with a YouTube video that now has over 700,000 hits (see below to watch the video).   While C. W. Roberts is a 35 year-old asphalt contractor in Tallahasse, Florida with no experience in oil spill clean-up they are proof positive of the old adage, “where there is a will there is a way!”

Carpenter’s common-sense and old-fashioned solution hands-down trumps the hi-tech, ecologically unfriendly ideas used to date.  In the six and-a-half minute video he and Goodson demonstrate the effectiveness of using ordinary hay.  They start with two metal bowls filled with water.  They simulate the spill by adding motor oil to each bowl.  One bowl is filled with Bermuda hay and the other with Bahia hay.  A ladle size strainer is used the push the hay around, simulating the action of waves in the ocean.  In just a few seconds they lift the oil soaked hay out of the pans.  The results are astonishing; the water is back to being clear and drinkable.  They go on discussing the possible methods for collecting the oil-soaked hay – skim booms, shrimp nets, dump truck on the beach.   The waste hay even has benefit – it can be burned in refuse-to-energy plants.  Oil and water don’t mix but hay and water make for a really effective combination.

The result of using hay to soak up oil

According to Chris Sumners, CFO of C. W. Roberts Contracting, the posting of the video was not their idea.  The video was posted by the Walton County (FL) Sheriff’s Department.  According to Sumners, “a lot of our employees are weekend fishermen.  They are concerned about the impact on the coastline and the wildlife.”  Cleaning up the oil is “important for Florida – it will help companies that are struggling, put people back to work, and protect our beaches.”

The video was taped while Carpenter and Goodson were demonstrating their idea to representatives of the Walton County Sheriff’s Department, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, BP, and the U. S. Coast Guard.  While the Florida DEP is ready and willing to try the idea, they cannot get involved until the spill comes within nine miles of the Florida coast.  The company is hoping that BP or the Coast Guard will act sooner.  Sumners says he is “scared about waiting too long.  June 1 is the start of hurricane season.  The clean-up will be so much more difficult if we get hit with an early storm.”

The company has never tried the idea in open waters but it certainly seems worth a try, even if it is only half as successful as the video.   The company has simply asked BP and the U.S. Coast Guard for the opportunity to demonstrate their solution on a 10 acre site.  They don’t want to be hired to clean up the entire spill, but they do want to protect the Florida coastline that is near and dear to their hearts.  Unfortunately, “the current focus is on stopping the leak, not on clean-up” so as of today no one from BP or the Coast Guard has contacted C. W. Roberts about implementing its idea.

While containing the oil spill is important, it seems equally important to mitigate the resulting spill damage.  Now is a good time to test every reasonable idea no matter where it came from.  An idea from Florida that employs people displaced by the spill, brings revenue to farmers,  uses natural ingredients, does not produce toxic waste, and can produce energy is an idea that deserves a chance.

Critics of the plan suggest the spill is just too vast. But could it still be worth a try? See the video for yourself below:

Jennifer is a CPA, CMA, CIA, CFF with a passion for how sustainability can improve a business. She is the owner and President of The Sustainable CFO, making the world better one business at a time. The Sustainable CFO provides consulting, on-demand CFO services, and business coaching to sustainably themed small business. Jennifer has 24 years of experience improving the business operations for a variety of companies in industries such as construction, legal services, and hi-tech. She also teaches finance in the Green MBA program at Antioch University New England. You can visit the website at www.sustainablecfo.com or follow her on twitter @sustainablecfo.