British Petroleum and U.S. Coast Guard turn down hay and fiber cleanup solutions as oil approaches Panhandle beaches
By Bo McMullian
On the Mike Huckabee program on FOX News last Saturday and Sunday nights, a large man wearing denim coveralls could be seen showing how hay and synthetic carpet fibers can soak up oil out of water, quickly and almost completely. That person was none other than Grand Ridge’s own Otis Ashmore Goodson, a long-time partner with the huge asphalt contracting firm, C.W. Roberts of Panama City, Tallahassee, Bristol, and several other Florida cities.
With Goodson was C.W. Roberts Vice President, Darrell Carpenter, a Bristol resident whose parents live in Marianna. CWR vice president George Roberts and Walton County Sheriff Mike Atkinson rounded out the demonstration team on Huckabee.
BP and the Coast Guard are not taking the contractors up on their cleanup deal offers, Goodson and Carpenter explained to the TIMES Tuesday afternoon. Both were on the road on their way to demonstrations with local municipal and county officials. “BP doesn’t want to do it because they want to skim and reclaim their oil,” Goodson said, “not hay. The environmentalists are afraid of the impact from the hay. It’s always excuses. But these are desperate times. This is not a time for small thinking. We need to get the oil out of the water.”
For those who missed the Huckabee program, Goodson and Carpenter can be seen on a You Tube video entitled “C.W. Roberts Presentation 2.WMV” They put the video on You Tube on May 5, just two weeks after the April 20 oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico near Louisiana. The video has been viewed more than 1.6 million times, the website says. In it, Goodson pours oil into two giant metal bowls filled with water. He then puts hay on top of the water and oil and “simulates wave action” by mashing the hay around with a strainer. After about two minutes, Goodson removes the oil-soaked hay with the strainer and the water is clear again.
That video, and perhaps Mike Huckabee’s connections to Walton County—he owns a home in Walton and votes there, Goodson said—resulted in the TV appearance last weekend. Huckabee was highly impressed with Goodson’s demonstration of similarly successful results from using sheets of synthetic carpet fibers. Those fibers also removed the oil from the water and made the water clear again. Officials in Orange Beach, Ala., were impressed by demonstrations by the CWT team this week, but they have not yet hired the contractors, Goodson said. Walton County officials have hired the company to take steps to protect the coastal sand dune lakes in the small bays around Miramar Beach and Destin.
“If we don’t do something to prevent it,” Carpenter said, “oil could be on the beaches in Walton County this weekend, and Panama City next week.” He said the hay could be obtained in enough quantity because he has had sellers contact him from as far away as California. “The hay could be loaded on barges,” he said, “and distributed by commercial blowers. Then, machines could go out and converge to pick up the hay and either burn it or extract the oil from the hay and use the hay to make pellets, like biomass.” C.W. Roberts is using sand to protect the coastal dune lakes in Walton, he said. “The booms being used by BP and the Coast Guard have failed. It’s obvious they have. I have no idea how they’ll stop the oil,” Carpenter said.
Goodson has been preventing silt erosion and water pollution on C.W. Roberts job sites for the past 20 years. In the past, hay was used to prevent the oil that seeped from the asphalt and other products from winding up in streams and lakes. But the state switched to carpet fibers and synthetics that proved more effective years ago, Goodson said. Goodson used to grow hay by the hundreds of acres in Jackson County before going to work for CWR.
Goodson, 44, lives south of Grand Ridge on State Road 69 with his wife Sharlene and their three children. He said he enjoyed the flight up to New York City last week on the company jet and the night in the Manhattan hotel paid for by FOX News. But many who saw him in New York in his panhandle business suit, (the coveralls), would not be surprised to hear that he couldn’t wait to get back home.
“It’s a whole ‘nuther world up there alright,” he said, “a real 24-hour-a-day city.” The Huckabee show made him “nervous. We didn’t have a screen to read from like Huckabee used. It’s intimidating.”
So were the skyscrapers. “I like the wide open spaces,” he said, “the trees and the ponds. All those skyscrapers, money and people aren’t for me. I would never stay there.”