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Boom disposal spurs need for geosynthetics

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An estimated 3.02 million feet of containment boom and 8.29 million feet of sorbent boom were deployed this summer in response to the Gulf oil spill—most of it made of vinyl. What will happen to all the boom?

Much of it was touched by the hydrocarbon slicks, and some of it will be cleaned, but most of the containment boom and all of the absorbent boom will be disposed of in landfills. The boom and materials used to contain and clean the 1989 tanker spill in Valdez, Alaska were transported to a landfill in Oregon. The same fate is in store for the contaminated boom in the Gulf; landfills across the Gulf coast will be accepting the materials.

Clearly the quick response by the industrial fabrics industry to provide boom and boom materials helped to mitigate the negative impact on the natural environment in and around the Gulf. The demand for vinyl and boom materials was overall a needed boost for the industry during the recession. Now, another segment of the industrial fabric industry is expected to see an up-tick. Geosynthetic materials, especially geosynthetic liners, are necessary in the construction or expansion of a landfill. Demand for landfill capacity had been diminished simply because the slowdown in the economy meant less waste was being produced, so landfill companies slowed the expansion of existing landfills and the construction of new landfills. The huge volume of contaminated boom materials needing disposal will require some landfills to increase capacity, which will require using geosynthetic materials to build and line the new landfill cells—good news for the geosynthetic liner manufacturers, fabricators and installers.

Andrew Aho, is the manager of the IFAI Geosynthetic Materials Association.

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