Steamboat pet groomer sending hair to Gulf of Mexico to aid oil cleanup
Woman hopes booms of fur will help oil spill cleanup efforts
June 26, 2010
Steamboat Springs — Dog groomer Melanie Smith hopes Zorro will find a way to save the world — or at least the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Zorro, a Saint Bernard-Anatolian mix, was in Smith's Pupcake Pet Salon on Friday morning having his fur coat trimmed for the summer. By the time Smith's clippers were silenced, most of Zorro's fur coat had been transformed into a large pile of pet fur that lay on the floor surrounding the big dog's paws.
In the past, Smith would have swept up the hair and tossed it into a trash container.
But she recently found a better use for the trimmed fur, which she deals with three days a week in her pet salon located in the Steamboat Veterinary Clinic.
Smith started collecting the hair from the pets she grooms a few weeks ago and plans to send three industrial-size trash bags full to the Gulf of Mexico where she hopes it will be used to produce booms to collect spilled oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
"I wanted to help, but I didn't think there was a way," Smith said. "When I heard about this — I knew there was something I could do."
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Smith has been grooming pets for 17 years and has operated the Pupcake Pet Salon in Steamboat Springs for three years.
She said she has groomed about 90 pets in the past three weeks and collected the hair. She plans to send it to the Gulf Coast, where an organization called Matter of Trust is using the material to make hair booms, by stuffing the hair into nylons and shrimp bags. Those bags are then placed in the water, where the hair attracts and collects oil.
According to its Facebook page, Matter of Trust is an ecological public 501(c)(3) nonprofit established in 1998.
However, while Smith and companies such as Petco have been sending pet hair to the gulf, there is some question about whether the booms are being used, and where. A representative with Petco said the company has stopped sending pet hair, and according to reports by MSNBC and The Huffington Post, much of the pet and human hair that was collected is sitting in warehouses in the gulf region because BP and the U.S. Coast Guard are not using it to collect oil.
Smith said she hadn't heard about any decisions not to use hair booms.
A statement Friday from Christina Coulon, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Liaison Joint Information Center in New Orleans, makes it clear that the Unified Area Command for the Deepwater Horizon/BP Response is not using hair booms in its cleanup efforts.
The statement said the suggestion was submitted to BP as an alternative method for containing and recovering the oil spill but that it was not deemed feasible after a technical evaluation. In a February field test conducted during an oil spill in Texas, commercial sorbent booms absorbed more oil and less water than hair booms, making it the better choice. One problem with the hair boom during testing was that it became waterlogged and sank within a short period of time.
Representatives of Matter of Trust could not be reached Friday. The organization's website does not mention that the boom is not being used and states that it is looking for volunteers to help make booms. Smith said she has not been notified that her pet hair is not needed and still plans to send it to the area.
Smith said that she helped with efforts at animal shelters before moving to Steamboat Springs and that this is one of the largest efforts she has been involved with. She said she would normally toss out the pet hair and that she still hopes it will be put to good use in the cleanup efforts in the Gulf of Mexico.
"I just want to do my part," Smith said. "Our oceans need our help."
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