Scientist Uses New Invention to Help Clean Up James River - WSET.com - ABC13

Scientist Uses New Invention to Help Clean Up James River

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Lynchburg, VA - The clean-up process following Wednesday’s derailment has attracted help from all over.

Scott Smith, a New York-based scientist, came to Lynchburg to help remove some of the crude oil from the James River.

Smith says within an hour of hearing about the train derailment, he was on his way to Lynchburg. He's with the non-profit organization Water Defense and has dealt with oil spills many times.

Friday, he was using his very own invention. It looks like a hula skirt, but Smith says it is all he needs help remove the more than 20,000 gallons of crude oil that spilled into the James River.

"The oil companies, the rail companies aren't using the best available technologies to remove oil from water," Smith said.

Smith first used his Opflex technology to assist in the BP oil spill clean up off the Gulf of Mexico four years ago.

"White and orange booms get placed out there for public perception. But the fact is they don't remove the oil and you can see that on the shoreline," Smith said.

When the oil is poured in water, it typically floats to the top. But Smith says with the current, the James River is a completely different scenario.

"So it will mimic the human lungs but yet mimic natural eel grass and eel grass has surface area and tentacles," Smith said of his invention.

Its tentacles reach down into the water and absorb the oil while repelling the water.

"The oil is being absorbed into the open celled matrix and being removed from the water," Smith said.

Smith says since inventing the Opflex he has been to four major Bakken oil spills. He even used his invention to conduct water tests after the coal ash spill.

"Sometimes the greatest problems in the world can be solved by mimicking mother-nature," Smith said.
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