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Local Business Pitch Peat as Solution to Oily Marshes

By: Bianca Spinosa Email
By: Bianca Spinosa Email

May 27, 2010

A local business believes they have the product that will safely clean up the mess in the marshes, where America's worst oil spill is poised to damage the fragile wetlands in Louisiana.

Imagine drinking a cup of water that had motor oil in it just minutes before drinking. That's what the McGroartys with Synergy Environmental demonstrate you can do, thanks to a plant that's been around for millenia, peat.

"It literally encapsulates the oil and will not leach, so it will not let [the oil[ back out. Then it biodegrades the oil," says Anna McGroarty, with Synergy.

The McGroartys started Synergy Environmental ten years ago, where they used peat from Canada to clean up oil and chemical spills in marshlands in Miami, where they used to live.

"When you're dealing with wetlands and marshlands, you can't get there with equipment without destroying it. That's why we use the product so much in South Florida," says McGroarty.

Here's how it works: using motor oil to represent the leak, and a bowl of water to represent the Gulf of Mexico, they add the oil to the water, then add the peat. It forms a membrane over the water's surface, breaking the oil down cheaply and easily. But the McGroartys can't seem to get BP or the government to hear them out.

"I have sent out in the last couple of weeks hundreds and hundreds of emails and faxes. Anything to get someone to hear me out," says McGroarty.

Experts say the scope of the spill is overwhelming cleanup efforts, and there may not be enough peat available to fight the spill.

Jay Zieman, an Environmental Science professor at the University of Virginia says the marshlands need help or the shrimp that breed there will die. Experts say peat could be a part of the solution, but more will need to be done.

"I don't see any miracle around the corner," says Zieman.

Synergy Environmental know that peat can only be part of the solution, but they hope their product speaks for itself before it's too late.

"It's frustrating, because I know this is the solution [for the marshes]," says McGroarty.

Synergy Environmental believes their plan isn't being heard in Louisiana because they don't have as much money to bargain with as larger corporations, which offer chemical solutions. Still, they plan to bring their product down to Louisiana to pitch it in person.

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