The Maine oil booms: Yes, they’re blowing smoke

June 17, 2010

Earlier in the saga of the Packgen oil-containment booms that apparently neither BP nor the Federal government wants, ostensibly because of quality issues, I had asked the following question:

Or are Washington and BP blowing smoke to cover for an initial and inexcusable lackadaisical response to the biggest environmental catastrophe in US history?

Silly me. I should have realized this was a rhetorical question; of course they’re just lying to cover up their bumbling:

Engineering Professor Gives Maine Boom Thumbs Up

“I have never directly looked at boom before,” says Ian T. Durham of the Department of Physics and Cooperative Engineering at Saint Anselm College.

That said, Durham says, analyzing boom “is a fairly standard, pretty simple mechanical engineering problem.”

Durham was recently hired by Packgen — the Maine packaging company that manufactured roughly 80,000 feet of boom that the US Coast Guard says failed an initial BP quality control test. Packgen president John Lapoint III has expressed frustration at BP/Coast Guard bureaucracy, insisting that the boom he’s making will work well in the Gulf, where boom is desperately needed.

Durham would not say how much he was paid, but he says he’s generally paid $100 an hour for consulting, and his analysis of Packgen boom took rougly 40-45 hours.

You can read Durham’s report HERE.

He says Packgen’s boom is superior to other boom. Its woven polypropelene is “practically indestructible,” he says. “Packgen uses it to make toxic waste disposal containers.”

Using woven polypropelene means the Packgen boom isn’t “going to twist like the vinyl” boom. “And it’s easier to deploy. It’s nice and stiff and it floats really nicely.”

As far as the professor is concerned, the boom meets or exceeds accepted ASTM standards. So, I ask again: aside from  connector problem that was easily rectified by Packgen, what is BP and the Coast Guard’s problem with Packgen’s product? If it’s even 50% effective, isn’t that better than nothing? Why hasn’t the whole supply been bought and shipped to the Gulf via military airlift?

It seems now that the answer is clear: the administration and BP screwed up by not acting on Packgen’s initial offers, which were conveyed through Maine’s two senators, and are now covering their rears by making up excuses that don’t stand up to the mildest challenge. Rather than admit they were slow off the mark and fixing the problem, the Lightworker administration waves its hands and tries to distract the audience like a cheap stage magician in Vegas whose tricks the crowd can see right through.

Pathetic.

(via Hot Air)


The Maine oil-booms: CYA in action?

June 14, 2010

A few days ago, we covered the stunning revelation that the Coast Guard admiral in charge of dealing with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill seemed never to have heard of the miles of containment boom sitting unused in Maine. ABC’s Jake Tapper broke that story and followed up with the Coast Guard, who told him the boom hadn’t met quality standards.

Eh… Not so fast. Tapper, again:

Over the weekend, Capt. Ron LaBrec from Coast Guard Public Affairs told me that according to a BP quality control inspector the PackGen boom did not pass an initial quality control test.

“Boom is subjected to great wear and tear when placed in the water and must be frequently tended,” LaBrec told me. “In order to retain its effectiveness boom must be of high quality. Once Packgen’s boom passes inspection, the company can be considered as a source for supplying boom.”

LaBrec noted that in the meantime, “suitable boom is being identified and obtained quickly” with 459,000 feet of boom stored in the region in addition to the 2.24 million feet deployed.

So what was wrong with the PackGen boom?

“There were concerns with material and end connectors,” LaBrec said. “BP has inspectors who visit facilities and regularly test boom. In addition to testing boom from new suppliers, boom from existing manufacturers is also tested/inspected. The Coast Guard also inspects boom that we purchase from suppliers. It is important because poorly designed boom may not work as intended.”

[Packgen President] Lapoint said the boom “not only meets” standards, “it exceeds it.”

“The only issue was the end connectors,” Lapoint said. So, he said, “we changed it to the universal connector, so there shouldn’t be any problems at all.”

Packgen further claims their boom exceeds standards by a factor of two, while Tapper quotes the relevant ASTM standards.

So, I ask again: What’s the hold up? Are the Coast Guard and BP using some standard other than ASTM (which would be odd)? If the switch to a universal connector was the only problem, why aren’t these booms on the way to the Gulf? Are there any other problems not mentioned?

Or are Washington and BP blowing smoke to cover for an initial and inexcusable lackadaisical response to the biggest environmental catastrophe in US history?

I don’t suspect we’ve heard the last of the Maine boom, by any means.

(via Jimmiebjr on Twitter)


Incompetent or just plain dumb? You make the call.

June 11, 2010

Three days ago, I linked to a Pajamas Media article that exposed the stunning fact that millions of feet of containment boom were sitting unused and unbought at a factory in Maine, in spite of the owner’s efforts to get the government’s attention.

So you’d think that, in the intervening time and with the slick spreading wider and wider, the government would have jumped right on this, bought Packgen’s entire stock, and ordered more.

I bet you believe in the tooth fairy, too.

TAPPER: I talked to a guy who runs a company in Maine that offers boom, and he has – he says – the ability to make 90,000 feet of boom a day. High quality. BP came there 2 weeks ago, looked at it, they are doing another audit today. He is very frustrated, he says he has a lot of high quality boom to go and it is taking a long time for BP to get its act together. Don’t you need this boom right now?

ALLEN: Oh we need all the boom wherever we can get it. If you give me the information off camera I’ll be glad to follow up.

That’s from an interview of Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, the man in charge of the federal “response” to this disaster, by ABC’s Jake Tapper. I’m so glad the admiral’s willing to get right on this; I’d hate to think it’s interfering with something important, like his tee-time.

“Sense of urgency?” What’s that? No wonder Governor Jindal is blowing a gasket.

Forget basic competence; does anyone in the federal government even care?

(via Hot Air)

UPDATE: A follow up from Jake Tapper:

Coast Guard finally got back to me: “The boom manufactured by Packgen did not pass an initial quality control test.”

Fair enough. I assume this means they’ve tested it since Tapper gave Admiral Allen the phone number, though it begs the question of why it took them this long to even check.


Gulf oil slick: mindboggling incompetence

June 8, 2010

When an oil spill occurs in water, one thing you want a lot of is boom: floating barriers that can contain the oil to a relatively restricted area. Since the Deepwater Horizon exploded and began the largest oil spill in US history, gulf-state governors have been begging for boom to protect their coastlines. Louisiana Governor Jindal asked for 5,000,000 feet of “hard” boom in early may. So far, he’s only received 20% of that. Supposedly, there just isn’t enough.

Wrong.

In what has got to be one of the most frustrating, infuriating moments of bureaucratic foot-dragging and incompetence since this whole mess began, a company in Maine has miles of boom available. They can churn out 40,000 feet per day, they’ve contacted federal officials and executives at BP – and no one will buy it from them:

John Lapoint of Packgen in Auburn, Maine, says he’s got plenty of floating oil containment boom and can make lots more on short notice. There’s just one problem: no one will buy it from him.

(…)

Packgen’s main business is not making oil boom. They make specialty packaging materials for shipping and storing environmentally sensitive materials. But when Packgen’s president, John Lapoint, saw the BP oil spill in the news, he understood right away that to have any hope of containing the oil drifting towards the shoreline, lots of floating boom would be necessary.

(…)

Maine, like the rest of the country, is suffering from very high unemployment. But its residents aren’t out of work because they aren’t useful; they’re useful, but out of work because there’s nothing much useful to do. Lapoint was able to immediately add two shifts of competent and motivated workers, and by the fourth day of production was making forty thousand feet of boom a day.

It’s likely they could make even more. But no one was ready to purchase it.

This comes down to a failure of anyone other than Mr. Lapoint, from the President of the United States to BP executives, to take any initiative. Instead they’ve stuck to approved procedures: when the Governor of Louisiana wants to build sand berms to protect his marshes, he has to wait for approval from Washington because of environmental regulations. And when a company stands ready to do its part and work round the clock to supply the equipment we need, no one from the Fed can be moved to do anything, while BP sniffs because the design isn’t approved, yet.

This is the worst of all possible situations: a Federal government that makes everyone wait on it, depend on it – and then won’t act decisively in a situation where it is given the lead role by law.

All while the ecologies and economies of the Gulf states are devastated.

Here we have Americans willing to take the initiative, from the Jindal administration to a small company in Maine, and the statist nitwits in DC are blocking them every step of the way. They should have instead have said “damn the regulations” and bought every foot of boom Packgen had, shipped by military airlift to the Gulf, and then set the company to working 24 hours a day. If the President is so willing to “kick ass,” here is just the situation in which he should put boot to tail. This is disgraceful.

Apparently, there are two clean ups in order: first the Gulf, and then Washington, D.C.  Angry

LINKS: More at Hot Air.