New EPA technology locates oil for faster, more efficient clean up - - The News for South Mississippi

New EPA technology locates oil for faster, more efficient clean up


By Elizabeth Vowell – email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Government technology that started as way to detect chemicals in the air is now helping find exact locations of oil in the gulf. The EPA is using a one of a kind airplane to scan the water and spot the oil before it hits beaches.

"The beauty of what these guys have discovered is a department of defense asset that was originally used to detect biological or chemical or even nuclear particulate matter after an event," said Congressman Gene Taylor, who flew with the EPA team Monday morning. 

The EPA's ASPECT Aircraft uses infrared technology to take photos of and locate oil. The technology was adjusted from scanning the air to looking for oil only two weeks ago. 

According to Contractor Robert Kratil, the technology is only now being utilized because they had to test and make sure it could be used to scan the water and see oil. 

 "The answers came back that yes, this is a valid technology. It looks like it's scientifically defendable. So, as soon as we could, we've tried to implement this," said Kratil. 

The ASPECT plane goes out twice a day, taking pictures and sending back coordinates of possible oil spots.  Those coordinates are then given to skimmers who can go directly to the site and begin clean up. 

The scanners can also tell the difference between crude oil, algae blooms and turbulent water. This allows boats to know exactly what and how much oil to expect, and be better prepared for clean up.

 "They don't get caught short handed and above all they don't waste any more time because we want to catch every drop of this before it hits our shoreline," said Taylor.

Though ASPECT is proven, EPA still does not have authorization from the Coast Guard to use the program.  Congressman Gene Taylor said the authorization boils down to funding, and that's no excuse.

"There never should have been a drop of oil on our mainland shores it was all preventable. This is what I did for the Coast Guard. I've got a heck of a lot of local knowledge out there on the water and they weren't listening," said Taylor. "I'm going to see that they listen or I'm going to tell the President of the United States to let me run the show… I'll fix it." 

Taylor has been helping EPA get the authorization it needs by meeting with Governor Haley Barbour, Coast Guard Officials and BP representatives.

However, EPA officials expect the authorization to come through quickly and already have Coast Guard officers helping to process incoming information.

All photographs and flight paths can be seen online through Google Earth. 

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