By Mark Guarino
Film star Kevin Costner is joining the ranks of scientists, engineers, and lawmakers in an international effort to figure out how to contain and clean up oil streaming into the Gulf of Mexico at the rate of 210,000 gallons a day.
Mr. Costner appeared in New Orleans last week to demonstrate a $24 million oil extraction device he is pitching to BP and Coast Guard officials. Costner says the device will clean oil from the water at a rate of 97 percent. BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said Wednesday that his team will test the device next week.
Costner's involvement in helping solve oil spill crises is not new. The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster in Alaska motivated the actor to help fund a consortium of scientists to develop technology that mitigates oil-infected water before it hits the coast. The technology is ready to combat the BP spill, he told reporters last week.
"It's not anymore about talk," Costner told WWL-TV in New Orleans. "It's about doing the walk, and that phrase was probably invented down here."
Costner's company, Ocean Therapy Solutions, provides multiple machines designed to address spills of different sizes. The largest can clean as many as 200 gallons per minute, Costner said. The company reports it has 20 such machines ready to be employed.
"The machines are basically sophisticated centrifuge devices that can handle a huge volume of water and separate [the oil] at unprecedented rates," Ocean Therapy Solutions CEO John Houghtaling said last week.
Costner said the machines work by drawing in the infested water where it then breaks it down, allowing the oil to discharge through a separate pipe. His audience, a gathering of local parish presidents, appeared eager to get the device to the Gulf.
"To me, this is a major tool for a tool box that should be tested," said Craig Taffaro, St. Bernard Parish president.
Besides saying that Costner's device will be tested next week, BP's Suttles said his company and the Coast Guard have been collecting ideas from the public since Day One of the crisis. The command center receives 100 ideas a day, Suttles said.
Costner said his decision to fund the technology was a result of needing to use the wealth he was "lucky" to accumulate instead of "piling it" for no real purpose.
"We all make decisions about what we want to be a part of. I'm just one person focusing on a specific problem and throwing a little resources to a lot of talent and manpower ... to come up with what is a [solution]," he said.