BP ignores, infuriates cleanup contractors in Gulf

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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The president of a Gulf-region company specializing in disaster response and cleanup said he’s getting the cold shoulder from BP and that the oil giant won’t even return his phone calls.

On Thursday, BP finally got the leaking Macondo well under control, filled with “mud” and cemented shut. But now that the faulty well has been shut off, all that’s left for BP to do is clean up the oil-polluted waters of the Gulf and the beaches along its coast — though the Gulf of Mexico Unified Command Center says it’s still drilling relief wells.

William Lombardo, president of Risk Management Disaster Service Environmental, Inc., said he’s got more than 80,000 Gulf region cleanup workers ready to go on a moment’s notice, several of whom are not only Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response certified, but are certified trainers.

His company has plenty of centrifuge machines and skimmer devices available almost immediately.

Lombardo said that he still has one major problem, though: BP hasn’t ever called him back. BP handles all the decisions as to which companies get work and which ones don’t.

One of Lombardo’s subcontractors, Oil Field Resource Solutions, has had centrifuge machines capable of handling spills of this magnitude for at least 15 years — but BP never called its owner, Bryan Baker, back either.

Baker and Lombardo both said BP jumped at Hollywood star Kevin Costner’s solution to filter oil from water, hailing it as “brand new” and “innovative,” among other accolades. But, they said, they’ve had something capable of doing the same thing better and more efficiently for years.

Baker said Costner’s version of a centrifuge isn’t able to handle the quantity of oiled-water that is necessary in order to clean up the Gulf of Mexico.

“From the get-go, we’ve had what’s known as a three-stage centrifuge machine,” Baker said. “We showed it to five top environmental groups, and they all said it was the best and most efficient centrifuge available. Next thing you know, you’ve got this Hollywood actor, Kevin Costner, all over the news saying he developed the same thing.”

Lombardo said his company also has access to a naturally existing mineral that could non-destructively remove oil from Gulf Coast beaches and from deep waters.

The mineral, Zeolite, is an adsorbent, or material that repels water. The Zeolite, Lombardo said, bonds to oil, decomposes the oil and changes back to Zeolite.

Lombardo’s company helped with cleanup efforts after tornadoes and hurricanes in the Gulf region for years, including post-Hurricane Katrina cleanup efforts. What Lombardo doesn’t understand is why BP hasn’t looked to him for help.

“Not only are they not calling us, we’ve informed them as to what we have,” Lombardo said. “If somebody asked me to put a list of everything we have ready to go together, I could probably have it to them in about an hour.”
Lombardo said he doubts the lack of attention has to do with the price of his company’s solutions either.

“They [BP] have never asked us price,” he said. “We’ve never even gotten a phone call back.”

The Unified Command Center’s press office said BP is handling which companies get hired and which ones don’t; Lombardo said that doesn’t make too much sense.

“There’s nothing more we can do except fill out an application, wait and hope they respond,” Lombardo said. “Here’s the question I have: they’re screaming about the environmental impact, so why don’t they pick up the phone and call us?”