While experts are trying to figure out how to curb the gushing oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, local volunteer groups are launching more low-tech efforts to clean up the mess. Among their list of needs are items that may sound odd or overly specific, but actually have invaluable functions when it comes to sopping up oil. Here are some of the wish list items volunteers have been asking for, and the explanation behind their use:
Freshly washed human or pet hair
Short, long, curly, colored ... it doesn't matter, as long as it's clean. Clean, dry hair is an oil magnet. But hair can only collect so much oil on its surface, which is why dirty hair is not as useful in sopping up oil spills. The hair is used to weave into mats or stuff into booms, which may slow or stop the spill from spreading.
Dawn dishwashing liquid
Only the basic blue kind will do. Antibacterial or other varieties of Dawn may be harmful to birds and other oiled wildlife. Dawn is the most recognizable of only a few liquid dish soap brands that are specially formulated to suspend and repel grease but are gentle enough to use on animals.
These are to wear, not to sop up oil, said Save Our Seabirds office manager Eileen Devlin. Cleaning up oily wildlife is a messy job, and sitting around with crude oil on your clothes is not only gross — it's dangerous. Volunteers are asking for old but clean T-shirts to change in and out of as needed.
Two types of brush bristles are needed — very hard and very soft. Hard bristles will be used to scrub kennels and cages holding the many birds wildlife groups hope to rescue. These will get dirty fast and will be cleaned daily, Devlin said. Soft brushes, such as baby brushes, can be used to actually wash the birds and other wildlife.
The porous netting is perfect for creating a sponge or boom stuffed with hair or other oil-absorbing fibers. The hose can be any size or color, and ones with runs in them are fine. The plan is to line the gulf shoreline to keep the oil at bay.
Much like hair or fur, wool has a natural ability to repel water by attracting and holding grease and oil. It's also lightweight and biodegradable. The wool can be stuffed into the pantyhose to make booms. People may donate wool clothing, but the best wool will come from wool farmers.
Madeira Beach Elementary School, 749 Madeira Beach Causeway, is a drop-off site for supplies during school hours.
The St. Petersburg Marriott Clearwater, 12600 Roosevelt Blvd, is also a drop-off point. Call (727) 572-7800.
The Tradewinds Resort on St. Pete Beach, 5500 Gulf Blvd., is taking donations at all hours.
Nikos Bistro in Oldsmar is taking donations of Dawn dish soap at 3705 Tampa Road in Oldsmar (Forest Lakes Plaza). Call (813) 814-0907 for details.