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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

Natural Disaster

Brooks Blanton

Atlanta, GA


Skimmers and Sand Berms to Stop Oil?

May 3, 2010 - 4:49 PM | by: Brooks Blanton

Dauphin Island, AL — Marty Simmons has a front row seat to a massive effort using sand berms and a three-mile long mesh barrier to stop a massive oil slick from washing ashore on the beaches of Dauphin Island, AL.

“That’s all we can hope for is that they’re trying and it’ll keep the oil from getting onto the island,” Simmons said.

Waves from the Gulf of Mexico literally crash on the shore right outside her vacation home on the western tip of the island.  But Simmons is worried about what those waves likely will bring to her beachside property in the next few days and how it could drive away vacationing families who plan to rent her summer home.

“We have renters that come in from the Middle of May and stay through August,”  Simmons said.  ”It’s booked solid…it was booked solid.  Who knows if it’s gonna stay booked solid or whether we’re gonna have cancellations?”

Private contractors are dumping loads of sand in front of her house to build four feet high protective berms on the gulf-side of the island, while the Alabama Army National Guard installs protective “skimmer-like” barriers on the north shore facing Mobile Bay.

The skimmers are actually four-feet high cloth boxes placed side by side to make a protective wall for three miles just off the shore.  The empty space inside the walls of the boxes will be filled with a biodegradable chemical that will filter out the oil while the seawater passes through.

“When the oil makes contact with that solution, it turns the oil into a solid,”  says Capt. Marcus Young with the Alabama National Guard.  ”It can then be simply scooped out and more solution placed inside the barriers.”

Dauphin Island Mayor Jeff Collier says latest official predictions show that the oil will not approach his coastline for at least three days.  A turn in the weather has brought hard rain and a north wind.  The rain has made the protective work harder to get done, but the change in wind direction has stalled the advancing oil and bought Dauphin Island a little more time.

“It gives us more time to put out the protective measures that you see going on now so that we are better prepared for if, and when the wind changes again,”  Collier says.

Photo Gallery
A National Guard Convoy Travels Along Flooded Roads on Dauphin Island
Image 1 of 8
  • A National Guard Convoy Travels Along Flooded Roads on Dauphin Island
  • The Alabama Army National Guard is Stationed on the Western Edge of Dauphin Island
  • The Alabama Army National Guard Convoy Passes by Marty Simmons Dauphin Island Home
  • Marty Simmons Watches as Bulldozers, Dump Trucks and Humvees Pass her House
  • National Guard Troops Install a Protective Barrier Along the North Shore of Dauphin Island
  • A Bio-degradable Chemical Will Catch and Clump the Oil While the Seawater Passes Through
  • Dump Trucks Bring in Loads of Sand for Protective Berms Intended to Stop the Oil
  • Four Feet-high Sand Berms Could Protect the Gulf-Side of the Island
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