Gulf oil spill: Equipment used to build war bunkers being tested to fend off slick
A basket-like piece of equipment typically filled with sand and used to build military bunkers in Iraq and Afghanistan is being tested along the pristine northern shore of Dauphin Island as the last line of defense against the encroaching gulf oil spill.
A four-mile string of baskets is part of an experimental effort to turn oil into a non-toxic solid if it ever reaches the shore. Those involved with the project said the calm waters make for an ideal testing ground.
For three days, BP employees, its contractors and the Alabama National Guard have laid out the 4-foot tall baskets, which look like cages with no top or bottom. They are surrounded with a green fabric and will be filled with a plastic polymer powder that will react with the oil, rendering it harmless, said Dan Parker, president of CI Solutions, which makes the chemical.
This is the first time the baskets have been used in such a way. They were designed as replacement sandbags, filled to the brim with sand and used against flood waters or as bunkers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"My job is to build a structure for the CI agent (polymer) to perform," said Stephanie Victory, CEO of Hesco-USA which makes the baskets. "That structure is in place and we are confident that it will perform."
All the baskets used are estimated to cost at least $450,000.
"Alabama stepped up to the plate and said 'we'll take all you got,' " Parker said.
Those involved with the project said others are watching Dauphin Island to see how the combination of baskets and polymer fare against the oil.
Parker demonstrated by pouring goblets of diesel fuel from a water bottle into a filled aquarium. From a red plastic cup, he dumped the white powder polymer over the surface and it soon turned into a Play-Doh-like gel that he rolled up as if it were pre-grown grass.
"That's all there is to it" Parker said.
-- Raja Abdulrahim, reporting from Dauphin Island, Ala.