What Can Gulf Communities Do To Protect Their Beaches from the Oil Spill?

George Washington's picture


Gulf coastal communities should, of course, use oil booms if they

But how can they clean up oil which makes it near or onto
their beaches?

There are much better alternatives to the toxic
being dumped into the oceans.

Initially, as
historical photos demonstrate,
hay was successfully used to help clean up the 1969 Santa Barbara oil


these two gentlemen demonstrate that hay is effective at soaking up

hay is bulky, and so it is difficult
to transport long distances

Corn cobs are another
alternative. As RP Siegel notes:


By far the most compelling idea I've heard about
comes from a Michigan woman named Adria Brown. Brown's company, Recovery
I Inc., has developed and patented a product called Golden Retriever
that is designed to recover oil from water. It is made from corn cobs.
Corn cobs turn out to be especially effective in this task, due to the
fact that they are buoyant, and the fact that they tend to spin in
moving water, which exposes their entire surface to the oil which clings
readily to it. The absorption occurs quickly, and once adhered to, the
cob will remain afloat without leaching, for over 24 hours allowing
plenty of time for retrieval using skimmers. As an added benefit, the
oil can be completely recovered by centrifuge and the cobs can be
reused. Brown has been working with an extensive farm network across the
Midwest, led by Feeders Grain and Supply of Corning, Iowa, to acquire
the needed materials in quantity. Together, they have amassed a
stockpile of close to 34,000 tons of material that is ready to be
deployed to the Gulf, where it can be administered using barges, that
is, as soon as someone down there asks for it. Sen. Chuck Grassley has
also been involved, helping to move the paperwork in Washington.


will the manpower come from? How about the thousands of fishermen who
are now out of work and are willing to do anything they can to save
their livelihood? How about paying them instead of paying expensive
outside consultants with their exotic chemical cocktails? According to
Ott, who was on location in Lafayette, LA, when I spoke to her, "the
people down here are looking for something that is "bayou-degradable."


can only hope that the folks in charge of the cleanup will listen to
sensible suggestions, rather that continuing to rely on rash measures,
in the appearance of "doing something" about the problem.

addition, certain materials can electrically attach to and bind oil
molecules (called "adsorption"
with a "d" instead of a "b"), and are excellent
for cleaning up oil spills

This promotional video
(advertising products which are no longer for sale) shows the potential
of using adsorbants to clean up oil spills:

may be an effective adsorbant, and is fairly inexpensive to
manufacture. It can be made from a wide variety of agricultural
byproducts such as coconut
or corn

(Indeed, the corn cob clean up technique discussed
above probably relies upon corn cobs which have been activated so that they are
more adsorbant

Finally, hair adsorbs oil. As Nasa wrote in


Researchers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville are
testing an Alabama hairdresser's hair-raising technique
of using human hair to soak up oil spills. This could
lead to a number of applications, including reducing
landfill waste, saving costs in oil spill cleanups and
recovering spilled oil for fuel.



Madison, Alabama,
hairdresser Phillip McCrory was watching television
coverage of 1989's oil spill in Alaska's Prince William Sound. He
saw the oil-saturated fur of a sea otter and asked himself,
"If animal fur can trap and hold spilled oil, why can't
human hair?" He conducted a home experiment using five
pounds of human hair he had cut, collected and stuffed
into a pair of his wife's pantyhose tied into a ring. He
filled his son's wading pool with water, put the
hair-filled hosiery ring into the center of the pool and poured
used motor oil into the middle.


McCrory found that human hair adsorbs—rather
than absorbs—oil.
That is, instead of bonding
with the hair, the oil gathers in layers on the hair's
surface, allowing for easy recovery and reuse of the oil
by simply squeezing it from the collection bundles.


McCrory researched and made sure his solution was unique. He found
patents similar to his idea that involved using sheep's
wool and duck feathers for in-demand items such as
clothing and insulation, but they do not adsorb as well
as human hair.


"Human hair thousands of years old
has been found in landfills, and tons of human hair cut
every day are tossed into landfills," McCrory said.
Using the hair to clean up oil spills would both put it
to work and reduce the amount of waste material going into landfills,
he believes. Oil-saturated bundles of hair can be burned
as fuel, and the energy value contained in the collection
bundles can be recovered.


Researchers at Marshall agreed to test McCrory's idea under controlled
laboratory conditions for potential use by NASA and other
U.S. government agencies. Successful preliminary field
tests also influenced Marshall's decision to test
McCrory's system further.


In an initial test, David
Glover, a chemical systems supervisor for Marshall
contractor BAMSI, Inc., filled a 55-gallon oil drum with
40 gallons of water and 15 gallons of oil. "The mixture
was filtered through nylon bags filled with hair," said Glover.
"When the water was tested after just a single pass through
McCrory's innovative filter, only 17 parts of oil per
million parts of water remained."


McCrory estimates that 25,000 pounds of hair in nylon collection
bags may be sufficient to adsorb 170,000 gallons of spilled
oil. Preliminary tests show that a gallon of oil can be
adsorbed in less than two minutes with McCrory's method.


There is also a potential cost savings in McCrory's
method. Present oil cleanup methods cost approximately
$10 to recover a gallon of oil. McCrory's system may
cost as little as $2 per gallon and offers the
additional benefit of being able to use the recovered oil for
fuel. McCrory has founded and is president of his own company,
BEPS Inc. of Madison, Alabama.

is a free and virtually unlimited resource. Human hair grows quickly,
and with close to 300 million Americans wanting to help out, a lot can
be used.

Indeed, many barbershops are already collecting hair. My
eldest daughter and her friends are also collecting hair to send to the
Gulf (I hadn't heard of the use of hair before my daughter told me
about it - and that was long before I understood the science behind it).

the bottom line is that collecting hair (or - if it is plentiful in the
local community - hay or corn cobs) - and bundling it into nylon
stockings or other sacks and putting it on the beaches and in shallow
water is probably the most realistic approach.

The oil-soaked
hair, hay or corn can then be taken out of the sacks and then carefully
burned as a fuel or heating source, or reprocessed for oil by an oil

Note 1: Most government agencies still
don't know
about the science behind adsorption. Your local
community will have to educate them. Start by sending them the Nasa

There is some anecdotal evidence that oyster mushrooms can
detoxify oil after it is removed from the ocean.  As the San Francisco
Chronicle notes
regarding the clean-up of a 2007 oil spill in the San Francisco Bay

Once the mats are soaked with black gunk, oyster mushrooms will take
over, growing on the mats and absorbing the oil.


National mushroom
expert Paul Stamets was in town the weekend after the spill for the
Green Festival, heard of Gautier's work and donated $10,000 worth of
oyster mushrooms to harvest on the oily hair mats.


Gautier said
the mushrooms will absorb the oil within 12 weeks, Gautier said, turning
the hair mats into nontoxic compost.


"You make it like a
lasagna," Gautier said. "You layer the oily hair mats with mushrooms and
straw, turn it in six weeks, and by 12 weeks you have good soil."


soil may not be good enough to grow carrots but is certainly good
enough to use for landscaping along roads, she said.


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AnAnonymous's picture

Poor advice in general. The population in the area are said to be lazy. If true, it might be their chance.

Oil companies always factor in communauty silliness to clean the mess. If US people from that area move now, they are in for ten or fifteen years of free work as it takes that long to clean a coastal area. Besides, their efforts are going to be counter-productive as usually, at the start, people are excited and can do marvels to clean up thus reducing the bills footed by oil companies to mend the situation.

If they are lazy, they wont move. Will help them in the end as the cleaning activities will be funded on a sane basis.

If they move now, cleaning up the shores for free, the bills will be reduced.

They have to keep in mind this is a long time effort. If they dont want to spend their week ends on the beaches cleaning for free in order to protect something they dont own,this for the next decade at least, they have to do nothing now.


Dont fall in the pit of the help your communauty drivel.

Sad Sufi's picture

Thanks for the informative post, GW.

I have a friend who is collecting hair.  Would be very nice to protect the sensitive inland esturaries with these hair booms.  Don't have much hair left, but we should spread the word so that hair salons know to give it to the right people.  Helping during a time like like this is important for our souls, even if it seems hopeless.

Rusty Shorts's picture


Holy shit, they knew that it was virtually impossible (ultra deep wells) long ago, must read, repeatedly.


Mentaliusanything's picture

How to stop the oil leak ?

Dump 500ton of 60mpa /30 slump concrete mixed with methocel and an accellarent that will set it in one hour. Delivered by kibble fitted with a gas operated swing opener. The pressures are not that great and 500 ton mass over a 21 inch pipe will see it sealed.

But what would I know. Engineers know nothing  (before you ask - concrete sets great under salt water)

Cursive's picture


Thanks for the article.  Really enlightened me on the subject.

ED's picture

Remember Dunkirk. Every man with a friggin boat should be out there scraping the damned stuff up - then give it back to BP, and your local rep

DaveyJones's picture

George thanks for reporting Greg Palast's work on BP and the Valdez

hardmedicine's picture

This oil spill is just insane.  I am in South Texas Houston and I believe someone , or a lot of someones need to be jailed over this.  You are telling me that they have no way of shutting this off??  I cannot believe the stupidity and the arrogance.  Who is responsible for this situation? Well, I guess after they let all those people die around the trade centers the EPA doesn't really have a very high standard to hold itself to. 


I really am disgusted.  Surely the loss here should be taken more seriously than what is being covered in MSM.  I would think that at this point there would be a bailout to place solar on every single house in America.  Oh, sorry I forgot, that wouldn't make them any money.  It's just disgusting.  We are all going to hell!!

merehuman's picture

Thank you , George Washington

Instant Karma's picture

Just saw an infomercial for Leakender 2000 on TV. Maybe that would work?

Hell if it'll get the free loaders off unemployment let Heir Obama unionize them.

The International Brotherhood of Beach Scrubbers: IBBS.

Instant Karma's picture

Well shit half the country is unemployed. Heir Obama has been touting green jobs for a couple years. What could be more green than the government paying people drawing an unemployment check to clean oil off the beaches.

Species8472's picture

I think most of the pictures show straw, not hay.


fxrxexexdxoxmx's picture

How much oil has been used by us posting on this topic? If it exceeds a certain amount are we bad people? If we are not questioning our impact in every act each day are we sincere?

Oil is bad. We use oil.

I used 2.2 gallons of unleaded fuel going to and from work today. I also used 6.2 gallons unleaeded driving my company provided vehicle today. I also burned 1.2 gallons of diesel running a generator for no other purpose but to verify that it works. That was just me today, what did you do?

mogul rider's picture

Isn't Mexico down there? Why don't the US just turn on their nuclear sib propellors and push the oil south?


Oh right The annointed one had to sell the props to pay for airforce one.

mogul rider's picture

Can't the US just zap them with their ray guns??

SmittyinLA's picture

remember this "disaster" is located right off the Missippissi dead zone-America's toilet where everything that gets dumped into our inland waterways all ends up, this isn't a disaster, this is business as usual.

SmittyinLA's picture

Actually doing nothing is the best possible choice, the ocean is filled with oil eating bacteria.

As this was a sea floor release the oil is already being broken up into tiny little spheres each coated with a web of oil eating bacteria by the time they reach the surface, doing anything to inhibit that natural clean up process wont solve anything.

Oil booms, hair booms, hay booms, chemical dispersants will all slow down and actually proliferate the problem into inland landfills and potable water supplies, and away from the ocean born oil eating bacteria.

Of course the state "doing nothing" when faced with a problem is unimaginable, and heaven forbid anybody actually suggest that doing nothing is the best possible solution to any problem.

Imagine the horror if the govt did nothing to bail out the banks, or did nothing to solve our immigration problem, or did nothing about Iran nukes.



Sancho Ponzi's picture

What we need is 'Hair Donation Stations' located inside all Whole Foods stores, located adjacent to the massage tables. The hair supply from WF customers alone should be adequate to soak up the nastiest of spills.

Frank Owen's picture

GW, good article. Are those Hair ETFs any good or should we be holding physical?

mynhair's picture

Give it a rest.

What oil spill?  The one from Cuba?   New Orleans just smells leftover Nagin fragrance.


Punta Gorda, FL.

Common_Cents22's picture

A trillion shredded up dollars would have been more helpful soaking up oil in the gulf rather than given to obama administration cronies and big banks.

WineSorbet's picture

30 million gallons and still gushing.  I don't care if we were all Neanderthals and everyone was shaved.  The Gulf is F&^KED!  Would you eat fish from there?

pros's picture

Best use of the spilled gunk is for waterboarding the BP/Halliburton/Transocean execs and  the govt co-conspirators----

better than a summary public execution a la Stalin's solution for

"economic wreckers"

Jim in MN's picture

If you follow the local news feeds like on Yahoo! News you'll see community after community newspapers covering some local salon collecting hair for this purpose. No idea what they'll do with it.

I suppose if BP won't take it then Bono or Oprah or someone could pay to transport it to England (by ship of course to avoid that ash) and completely cover BP's headquarters with it.

Also, here is the latest NASA image showing the slick entering the Loop Current in a big way, so I guess that debate is over (if anyone bothers to look at the actual slick).


merehuman's picture

BP has much video footage. So far i am not certain they have shown the main blow out. 30 seconds is all they let us see.

For heavens sake , BP does not own the gulf, our animals, our beaches our industry. Yet we allow them to remain in charge.

So does BP run our government or GS?  lol

BTW  lots of folk got sick from cleaning the alaska spill. Some died from it.

Do our gulfcoast workers know how dangerous this is?

SmittyinLA's picture

they'll get a grant from govt, and hefty tax deductions, andmaybe bill BP and Halliburton and RIG, the hair boom promotion is coming from a SF non-profit seeking to profit from this disaster.

Just what we need a hazmat landfill filled with oily hair that will take thousands of years to breakdown.

(they're putting the hair in pantyhose) what happens when the sun degrades the pantyhose, the oily hair is relased and marine life chokes on panty hose particles?

moneymutt's picture

So, with this post GW, you have offer more assistance and thoughtfulness on this disaster than the entire US govt and BP corporation.

I understand the dispersants BP is using are more toxic and less effective than others on the market, but BP, Exxon, own a piece of the company that sells the dispersant they are using.

Why we don't have all our marine scientists out there working like crazy trying to figure out how bad or not bad this is beyond me. Just tell BP, "hey we're taking a week of your profits in the form of a disaster tax and giving it to our unemployed fishermen fleets and our best marine biologists, chemists, and ocean/coastal engineers to asses how bad this is, get over it or we will shut down Atlantis rig because our fear it will do even worse." Put a bright person in charge to coordinate the definition of the problem, while working on a side track on how to mitigate what you are finding.

Instead, we watch BP do whatever it feels like or doesn't feel like doing. Brilliant.

zhandax's picture

Put a bright person in charge

There is the catch.  You think one works for the current thieves in DC or if one did, they would trust him?

ZerOhead's picture

The 'dispersant' used by BP are known as Corexit 9500... nothing but pure kerosine basically. That breaks the oil up into tiny droplets that emulsify and sink in the water column thus sure to decrease the amount washing up on the beaches and coating the birds. Very wise PR and litigation move... it will save them billions perhaps.

The 'downside' is that by using this product (approved by the EPA and Whitehouse interestingly)... the negative environmental impact will be much much larger and longer lived. Forget about eating anything from the Gulf again for a long long time...


lucky 81's picture

volcanic ash is very absorbent and could help iceland pay some bills.

JohnKing's picture

A financial incentive would work wonders. Can this stuff be refined? Who would buy it? If there is a market, there will be plenty of plume hunters and tar ball pickers..


Is there gold out thar in that gulf?

bugs_'s picture

Git long hay AND switchgrass.

Noah Vail's picture

Right, use up all the hay so that there is none left for livestock and food prices skyrocket even more. Ethanol all over again.


Best thing to do is pray for the east wind to blow it all over to Texas where it don't really matter.

eccitante's picture

It may hit Cuba instead of FL...

U. of S. FL Spill Projection Map:


George Washington's picture

If you had actually read the whole article, you know that a better solution is ...


Sudden Debt's picture

I bet pubic hair works even better!


Post your puictures of proof HERE! :)


merehuman's picture

I suppose a sign of solidarity is to go BALD, shave that head!

Bullish for barbers!

Sudden Debt's picture

Say what you want but Black does slim a person down :)

You better write a article about the Atlantic Rig that was shut down by the Gov. and the fact that BP is SUEING THE GOV NOW!!!


H I L A R I O U S 

Obama is now realising that if he takes the bribe of the Devil, that he needs to Dance with the Devil :)




But BP is going to give incentives to the people.

Soon, BP is going to put Golf Balls in the tarballs. Just look for them on the beaches and look to the numbers imprinted on them.

Every week they'll organise a lotterie and give away a free cruise to the Bahama's for 2 persons!!



Priceless :) 

Moneygrove's picture

All the gulf states need is

Bristol Palin to hit speakers' circuit !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
ZerOhead's picture

While black may have a slimming effect... 'black' on those two little kids should have landed someone in the local lock-up.

And speaking about odd dance partners... looks like BP and Goldman Sachs are becoming partners in crime these days.

Looks like Goldman through it's commodity trading arm J. Aron and BP conspired to steal from and successfully kill a former GS client using the knowledge of it's trading position against it.

Parents... please warn your children not to accept candy or rides from GS predators...


Frank Owen's picture

I thought it was quite heart-warming to see the photo of those children gainfully employed. Just think about their future - A corporate-backed political system, working to pay for bank bailouts, working to pay for their parent's bailouts, working to pay for oil company clean-up bailouts once the bill for the spill crosses $75 million, a gutted manufacturing sector that only cares about the lowest cost per unit. At least they might have some future clearing up environmental disasters in their backyards left by captains of industry doing god's work. Maybe they'll get lucky and get jobs working in a coal mine with 1000's of safety violations that are ignored because it's more profitable to to just pay the fines rather than protect their workers lives.