Straw Bale Along the Coast to Slow the Oil

Written by Andrew Morrison

Gulf Oil Spill in WaterwaysWe’ve all heard about the horrible oil spill in the Gulf and how it’s impacting the environment and the livelihood of millions of people around the world. A woman wrote to me yesterday to ask how straw bales might be useful in protecting the shoreline and I’ve been thinking about that ever since. Thanks Jan! I spoke with a friend of mine from college who lives down in New Orleans this morning. I’ve asked him to offer the following suggestion top anyone who would listen and who is in a position to implement the idea.

Straw bales used to slow contamination from Gulf Oil Spill As some of you may know, straw bales are used as erosion control all the time during construction projects. They are used to form silt traps, like the one shown here. The concept is that the water is slowed down, but still flows through the bale. The straw which is netted in a web within the bale, traps the silt and doesn’t allow it to move through. I believe the same system could work for the oil that is floating along the surface of the water. If bales were set all along the coast line, they would act like silt traps or sponges and soak up the oil. If they didn’t actually soak up the oil, they would certainly slow down the water and cause the oil to accumulate at the face of the bales. This would make it thicker and easier to collect, as one of the big issues with this spill is the fact that the oil itself is thin and does not collect easily.

I hope that somebody reading this can get it in front of the right people. The woman who originally asked the question has contacted the National Geographic Society, and as I said earlier, I’ve asked my friend who lives in New Orleans to contact people locally who may be interested in the idea. Please help us get the word out and create a line of defense along our coast lines in the South. Remember, you can still go to certain areas around Valdez, Alaska and find oil 6″ to 12″ down in hand dug holes. That’s a long term disaster I’d like to not see repeated.

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8 Responses

  1. You can go a step further and use hay or straw to capture the oil off the top of the water. The oil will stick to the hay/straw so that it can be picked up easily. Here’s a link to a video demonstrating the concept:

    Once the straw/hay picks up the oil, it can be composted, turning a waste into a resource.

  2. Eversince I have searchrd your website,I have started thinking of making one such strawbale home for my own living before I advise to anybody in India.
    As you know,India has a very torturous summer ,temperature shooting upto 45 deg Centigrade.
    I would like to know whether you have anybody following your advice here in India.If yes,Can you give his address.
    Do you have any idea as to strawbale construction being done here?
    V B Singh

  3. Rice is one of the primary agricultural crops in south Louisiana and southeast Texas, and I’m sure that rice straw would be great for that purpose. Unfortunately, now is the growing season and the harvest is still a few months away. Unless there is rice straw available from last year (which I doubt) they would need to bring in another type of straw or hay to use as a barrier.

  4. If this goes the way the spill in Alaska went, you will be ale to dig down to oil years from now. Would some kind of fabric, old sheets, tarps be able to stop this from happening better than manually picking up clumps of oil to put in plastic bags?

  5. Just saw in a slideshow put out by Audobon to its volunteers that there is a strawbale barrier across one of the LA beaches. I wonder how it’s doing. I hope its straw and not hay that we use for animal feed.

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