PHIL WIELAND: Valpo man wants to put a bug in EPA's ear

2013-10-04T00:00:00Z PHIL WIELAND: Valpo man wants to put a bug in EPA's earBy Phil Wieland phil.wieland@nwi.com, (219) 548-4352 nwitimes.com

For more than three years Tom Clark has waited for a call from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency telling him to bring his batch of bugs to the Gulf Coast to clean up the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

You remember the spill, which occurred in April 2010 when an oil rig exploded and collapsed, causing billions of gallons of oil to spew into the gulf waters for weeks while BP tried everything short of stuffing the hole with Bounty the quicker picker upper.

Stopping the leak didn't stop the problem. Those billions of gallons of  oil formed a toxic plume covering an expanse almost as vast as Donald Trump's comb-over. That's when Clark and his company, Bioremediation, offered to bring the bugs down.

His bugs are microbes that love oil. They eat the stuff for breakfast, lunch and dinner and between meals. Clark said they exist naturally in the ocean, nibbling on whatever little bits of oil they can find oozing up from the ocean floor without any help from BP or others.

A feast of the magnitude of the Deepwater Horizon disaster would send these bugs into a feeding and sexual frenzy, multiplying by the power of 10 every few minutes, according to Bioremediation Inc. President and CEO Steve Kennedy. They eat the oil and reduce most of it to carbon dioxide, apparently from microbe flatulence.

When the bugs have gobbled up all the oil, they then turn on each other, sort of like politicians. It's all very safe and ecologically friendly and turns the tar balls into a chocolate-like material that can be scooped up and used for any number of oil-based products.

It would seem to be the ideal solution for the gulf spill, and so it might have been if BP made the stuff. Instead, according to news reports, BP is involved in the manufacture of a product called Corexit, which, contrary to the name, doesn't really "corrects it."

Corexit is a dispersant, emulsifying the surface oil into tiny droplets that remain suspended in the water or on the ocean floor. BP used an estimated 1.84 million gallons of Corexit, according to news reports, despite the fact it is toxic and has been banned in other countries for more than 20 years.

A 2012 study found Corexit increases oil's toxicity by 52 times. Clark, who is the area representative for Bioremediation and is chaplain of the Valpo American Legion Post 94, said people are still getting sick from the oil and the Corexit, but there seems to be little interest in his bugs, which could even clean up the Corexit contamination.

"I feel like I'm Erin Brockovich fighting the nuclear plant," Clark said.

His analogy is a little off, but, if Julia Roberts stars in the movie of his life, maybe she can get the EPA to call her.

The opinions are those of the writer. He can be reached at phil.wieland@nwi.com or (219) 548-4352.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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