Archive for lab tech

The simplest oil collection invention works: A bag and a trap


(Dan Anderson, European Pressphoto Agency / July 7, 2010)

BP is the mother of all corporate thugs. Necessity is the mother of invention:

Matherne's apparatus looks like a trash bag in a big crab trap, but it works like a sieve to snag sludge and oil while seawater passes through. BP officials say they aim to build and deploy 100 units by the end of the month, and add more after that if needed.

You could draw plans for a contraption like that with a crayon, as opposed to the vastly complicated renderings of inventions that lead nowhere. I love that.

All kinds of scientists, experts, and bloggers have sent BP 120,000 + ideas. I'm aware of a couple of those blogger ideas. It was clear to many of us they were faulty, too expensive, or had been done before, but hey, it was worth a shot.

And for that reason, only about a dozen ideas have made it to the field test phase. Here's one that is, thankfully, not an option:

Others urged exploding a nuclear weapon in the seafloor to seal the ruptured well.

That would violate U.S. and international law, and could wreak far more devastation than an oil leak, among other problems. BP has ruled out "use of explosives, including nuclear," according to its website.

Frank Maisano, spokesman for TMT Shipping said that "high waves and BP's heavy use of chemical dispersants had thinned and broken up the oil", and that created complications for big tankers called super skimmers and their ability to collect it.

That is only one reason dispersants have been a mistake from the beginning. They're also toxic as anything, which you can read about here.

Matherne's idea is a whole lot simpler. It's called the Heavy Oil Recovery Device, or HORD.

It uses a 6-foot-long bag made of the same synthetic mesh in lawn furniture. The bag is secured inside a large cage with an open end, like a trash bag in a kitchen pail.

When the floating cage is towed at slow speed, the porous bag captures weathered oil — the tarry globs that wash ashore — but lets seawater flow through. After a ton of tar balls fills the bag, it is cinched closed and hauled on deck, and a clean bag goes in the cage.

I know what you're thinking, that it's too expensive, too costly, and that he's just in it for the money. Nope. It would cost $42 per bag and $6,000 per cage. That's less than a more sophisticated mechanism would run, right?  And Matherne was already a BP employee, so they're not paying him for the HORD.

I can't decide if I think that's a good thing or whether I think they're stiffing him, as in, he should get paid a fortune if his gadget ends up being as successful as it sounds.

The disposable bags in the HORD eliminate the pumps and vacuums. Engineers hope they also can link cages in static lines to protect vital channels and fragile coastal wetlands and estuaries. [...]

"They say there's no silver bullet, but I think I've come pretty close," Matherne said with satisfaction as he watched from a nearby boat.

He'll be a hero if it works, even with a bronze bullet.


Special to TPC: Medical lab tech explains Corexit to us


A reader of ours, Marnie, has offered to share some information in the form of this guest post. It's a thorough look at the toxicity of dispersants, their make up, how they are absorbed, and their poisonous effects on :


First let me let you know who I am in terms of my “expertise.”  I am a medical laboratory tech. Lab techs are the people who work in medical labs and run tests on human specimen.  I also have a BS in biology and chemistry.  So I would fall into the category of knowledgeable as well as interested, but not expert.

Let me see if I can make a single point and back it up enough to stand.


How chemically stable are molecule of Corexit and petroleum? How toxic are they?  That is something that needs immediate investigation.  BP and our government are impeding investigations on every level they can.

I’ll hazard a guess that the molecular complex of Corexit’s surfactant and BPoil is creating molecules which fairly stable, and because of the water soluble surfactant component do not evaporate readily because one end of the molecule is literally stuck in the water like a boot in quicksand.  They however probably easily absorb into living tissue especially the very porous fluid moistened walls of the lung once they have become airborne along with salt spray.


BP and Corexit’s manufacturer have said the dispersant is like soap.

Soap/surfactant is a molecule that can attach to a fat/lipid/oil molecule on one end and to a water molecule on the other end.

A cell membrane is made of back to back layers (bilayer) of phospholipid molecules. These molecules, also, can attach to a lipid molecule on one end and a water  molecule on the other end.

So a micro-droplet of dispersant and BPoil can possibly soak through just about any mucus membrane and through the skin as well, carrying a toxic micro- or nano-droplet or oil and surfactant directly into the tissues, into the blood stream, and even through the cell membrane, basically unaltered.


Plain dish washing soap, used as a surfactant in a garden bug or mold and mildew spray is sufficiently active to carry the spray’s poison through the insect’s hard exoskeleton or the mildew’s tough cell wall,  In the same way dish soap is strong enough to carry a sprayed on plant food through the waxy protective layer of the plant’s leaves into the leaf tissue and circulatory system all the  way through the plant’s system down to the roots.

The right surfactant can do the same thing in an animal, carrying a toxin into the organs. (Like a patch does with medicine.)

If a house hold soap/surfactant/dispersant can do that, what more can an industrial strength surfactant, hundreds of thousands of gallons of it, do in a living system like the Gulf of Mexico, its plants, animals, and the humans that live on its shores?


Here is the list of problems that may be caused by Corexit as listed by CDC, whose sole source of information, prior to the Deepwater explosion, was BP.

“Defatting and drying of the skin and possibly dermatitis, as a result of prolonged exposure.

Chemical pneumonitis, if aspirated into the lungs. However, ingestion is considered an unlikely route exposure.

Repeated or excessive exposure to 2 butoxyethanol may cause central nervous system depression, nausea, vomiting, anesthetic or narcotic effects, injury to red blood cells (hemolysis), kidney or the liver, and a metallic taste.

Respiratory irritation as a result of repeated and prolonged inhalation exposure.

Eye irritation as a result of repeated and prolonged inhalation exposure.”

The fate of any mammal who has extensive exposure was vividly shown by the film of a pod of dying porpoises.  That was a huge red flag that has largely been ignored. and apparently unresearched.

When a BPoil nano-droplet enters a plant’s or animal’s circulatory mechanism and gets deposited in a tissue or organ, the body probably cannot remove it.  If the material is toxic it remains in the body and if it is stable it can kill and kill again and again.

How chemically stable is a molecule of Corexit/petroleum and water?  That is something that needs immediate investigation.  BP and our government are impeding investigations on every level they can.

Micro- and probably nano-droplets of oil or oil/Corexit have been shown to have reached the waters of the coast as seen in the news video. The reporter states that water samples collected “appeared” normal.  So the oil found in those samples came as micro or nano droplets or as dissolved complexes of Corexit and oil.

As the video shows, some of those molecules still hold volatile components despite lies to the contrary.

The Gulf has 3 to 4 months of 90 degree or higher temperatures pretty much every day and a blazing sun that stand directly over head at noon.  Anything volatile should have evaporated as soon as it hit the surface air and direct sun.

It helps to remember that the walls of the blood vessels, filtering tissues and tubules of liver and kidney, lungs, intestine etc. are living cells that can themselves be poisoned or disabled by a toxin.  So bleeding from the rectum could indicate a break down in both capillary integrity and in intestinal wall lining integrity.  Most likely the same thing is happening in the liver, kidney, and lungs since we are looking at a systemic toxin, spread throughout the body.

The EPA and BP are blocking scientists from studying just these types of issues, knowledge that could be available now and for the next such event.

Thank you so much, Marnie. This info was close to being over my head, but you somehow made it understandable.