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Oil spill could be 'hairy' situation
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For several weeks, Americans have watched anxiously as oil leaking from the catastrophic explosion of a BP rig in the Gulf of Mexico edges closer and closer to the Louisiana coast. The oil spill began with an explosion and fire April 20 on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, owned by Transocean Ltd. and leased by BP PLC. The blast killed 11 workers.
Since then, oil has been pouring into the gulf from a blown-out undersea well at about 210,000 gallons per day. The leak has been releasing 5,000 barrels of oil per day, and efforts to manage the spill with controlled burning, dispersal and plugging the leak have been unsuccessful.
This oil spill could become the worst oil spill in history, surpassing the damage done by the Exxon Valdez tanker that spilled 11 million gallons of oil into the ecologically sensitive Prince William Sound in 1989. Unlike the Exxon Valdez tragedy, in which a tanker held a finite capacity of oil, BP’s rig is tapped into an underwater oil well and could pump oil into the ocean indefinitely until the leak is plugged.
I am sharing an excerpt from an interesting story by freelance writer Katherine Gustafson, published May 1 on Although this certainly is not a definitive answer for the oil leak, I was surprised that recycled hair, fur and wool items have been used on shores to clean up previous spills. See what you think:
“As our newest oil spill seeps toward the Louisiana coast, it’s natural to wonder whether there are any ‘think outside-of-the-box’ ways to clean up the mess. Is rubbing animals with dish detergent the best we can do?
“Looking to the Philippines, we found our answer: human hair. In 2006, the country’s worst-ever oil spill prompted an unusual program in the country’s prisons. Thousands of Philippine inmates had their heads and chests harvested for hair to be used in the clean-up effort.
“The hair was combined with feathers to create a spongy material that would soak up the more than 50,000 gallons of industrial fuel that had leaked from a sunken tanker off the central island of Guimaras.
“The method was also used in San Francisco, when hair mats were employed to clean up the Cosco Busan spill of 2007, which resulted when a cargo ship hit the base of the Bay Bridge and let loose some 58,000 gallons of oil.
“Lisa Gautier, director of a nonprofit called Matter of Trust, donated 1,000 ‘oil spill hair mats’ she had made for the San Francisco Department of the Environment to absorb motor oil spills.
“Once the hair mats, which are the size of doormats and feel like Brillo pads, had absorbed all the oil they could, oyster mushrooms were cultivated on the mats to absorb the oil and turn the oily hair into nontoxic compost within 12 weeks, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Mycologist and author Paul Stamets donated $10,000 worth of oyster mushrooms to the cause.”
So could hair and mushrooms work in the gulf? Yes, indeed. Lisa Gautier is at it again and wants your hair to help with the clean-up effort. Find out how to donate your locks at

More upcoming KLB events that are waiting for you:
• May 15, 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.:  GAC cleanups. Call 880-4888 today to set up yours.
• May 15, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.: Recycle it! Fair for electronics and HHW items. Turn in paint (no rusted cans), batteries, motor oil and antifreeze, ink cartridges, cell phones, household goods and more!
• May 22, 10 a.m.- noon: Community Shred Day sponsored by The Heritage Bank in the downtown bank’s parking lot. Paper document shredding will be free to the public. For more information, call 408-3780.
• May 27, 5-7 p.m.: Great American Cleanup volunteer appreciation at the old Mills House, 500 Oglethorpe Highway.

The 2010 Great American Cleanup will wind down at the end of May, but cleanups can be scheduled any time. If your neighborhood, street or group would like to sponsor one, call 880-4888 or e-mail

For more information, call 880-4888 or e-mail

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