Round bales of Coastal bermudagrass and bahiagrass hay were removed from Walton County, Florida’s beaches last week after winds began moving the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill away from the state.
The hay would have been used to soak up oil before it could pollute the county’s 26 miles of shoreline. If the oil had threatened the coastline, the hay would have been chopped and spread into the water by bale processors like those used on farms. Later, the oil-laden hay would be removed by equipment made for harvesting seaweed and hauled to plants that burn waste to generate electricity.
The idea was the brainchild of Darryl Carpenter, vice president of C.W. Roberts Contracting, a construction company headquartered in Tallahassee. His company, which works primarily in road construction, has used hay to remove excess tar, and he’s convinced it could be a big help in the oil-spill cleanup effort.
“We’ve tried several different things, and hay seems to work the best,” he says. “We may not get it all, but every little bit we get is that much less that somebody else has to get.”
A video of Carpenter and subcontractor Otis Goodson using hay to remove oil from water has been making the rounds on the Internet the past two weeks. It shows that, when hay is mixed into bowls of water and oil, the oil sticks to it, leaving mostly water when the hay is removed.
After watching the video, Walton County officials adopted the use of hay as part of their oil spill action plan. It apparently won’t be needed there, but Carpenter is convinced hay could be helpful wherever the oil ultimately threatens to come ashore. Better yet, he’d like to spread it closer to the spill site.
“The farther off shore we can attack the oil, the better,” he says. “If we could attack it at the actual spill, that would be best.”
Plenty of hay is available. “We only have about 100 bales for Walton County, but we have thousands of bales on standby.” He says people in several Southeastern states have called wanting to sell him hay.
Not everyone thinks putting hay into the gulf is a good idea, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection refused to endorse it, saying it would create more problems than it solves. Read one critic’s comments.