Today’s New York Times posts an article titled “New Ways to Drill, Old Methods for Cleanup.” Robert Bea, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies offshore drilling, nails the disparity between drilling technology and clean up methods.

“They have horribly underestimated the likelihood of a spill and therefore horribly underestimated the consequences of something going wrong,” Bea tells the NYT. “So what we have now is some equivalent of a fire drill with paper towels and buckets for cleanup.”

While capping the undersea gusher is still a guessing game, a Lafayette business is experimenting with something a little bit more effective than paper towels. TMD Technologies Group LLC of Lafayette produces oil-eating microbes. The company is teaming up with Floating Island Environmental Solutions of Baton Rouge, which makes mats of plastic filaments.

LSU School of the Coast and Environment professor Ralph Portier has been working with the two companies. “I got both companies together and tweaked it a little bit and came up with a ‘bio-barrier’ that we think is an improved boom device,” Portier tells The Advocate.

One thousand feet of mat will be installed near Grand Isle today. The testing phase should last a week. If the mats are successful, Floating Island spokesmen say the company will be able to manufacture about a mile of mats a day, maybe more.

“We feel we could possibly place strings of islands at the beginnings of bayous, canals, inlets and elsewhere to prevent what the booms don’t catch from moving farther into the marsh,” Nicole Waguespack, Floating Island’s executive vice president, tells The Advocate. The mats would provide a last line of defense for the most endangered wetlands.

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