Groomers confused after BP rejects dog hair for oil spill
Dawn Giovannucci of Northborough, Mass., one of thousands of dog groomers across the country pitching in to help clean up the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, thought the boxes of pet fur clippings she was shipping south were being used to sop up pools of toxic oil.
But after hearing last week's announcement that British Petroleum was not planning on using the hair, she's not sure what to think.
"I don't know what's going on, but I did receive a press release from the agency in charge of the hair effort," she said. "They basically said they might have jumped the gun a little bit."
The president of that organization -- an environmental charity called Matter of Trust -- said she's confused, too.
"One department at BP told us to open the floodgates and send all the hair we could find," Lisa Gautier said from her San Francisco office. "But on Friday another department in the same building told us they couldn't use the hair."
Gautier said she was contacted May 15 by BP's Houma, La., Critical Resources Materials Management Department and told to send as much dog hair as possible. But Friday's news release issued by BP's public affairs office said the company would not use the hair, preferring to use other means instead.
"One problem with the hair boom is that it became water-logged and sank within a short period of time," said Charlie Henry, a scientific support coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who was quoted in the release.
Hair booms, which are essentially breathable nylon nets packed to the brim with pet fur, are being produced by volunteers working in 19 warehouses along the Gulf Coast.
The release went on to state that a "commercial sorbent (absorbing) boom is readily available and scientifically designed and tested" for oil containment and absorption, citing a February 2010 side-by-side field test comparing sorbent and hair booms.
"On Monday I sent out 28 pounds of fur," Marquel Johnson, the manager at the Flying Fur pet grooming shop in Medway, Mass., said. "I'm going to keep collecting more because I'm not sure what to believe, and I just want to help any way I can."
Gautier said she asked groomers and salon owners who signed up after BP's Friday announcement to wait for emergency alerts before sending more hair to the Gulf Coast.
"I had not heard the quote about the hair booms sinking," she said. "Whoever said that does not understand that we never intended for the hair booms to be stand-alone floatation devices.
"The booms would be marked and retrieved the same way fishermen use lobster buoys."
Giovannucci said she's still collecting hair.
She said John Gallagher, the Northborough Post Office officer-in-charge, had come in earlier and picked up a box of dog hair.
"He told me he'd have them delivered for free," she said.
Each week Giovannucci said she receives an e-mail from Matter of Trust that contains directions telling her where to ship the excess hair.
"This time our boxes are going to a warehouse in Florida," she said.
Gautier said she hopes BP's decision not to use the hair booms will only be temporary.
"These natural, renewable fibers are extremely effective, and any reports to the contrary are false," she said.
MetroWest Daily News writer Evan Lips can be reached at 508-490-7461 or firstname.lastname@example.org.