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Can a 1,270-foot pneumatic air curtain be instrumental in preventing oil from spreading into harbors and bays? Destin's Donnie Brown and Craig Barker, who developed the curtain, certainly think so.

Here's how the curtain works: 12 giant compressors will pump air through a pipe suspended in the water. The bubbles they create should force underwater oil to the surface, where skimmers can collect it.

Brown, a product development engineer and owner of PumpOut USA, had been working for five years on a similar application to contain fuel or oil spills in marinas. When the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, he thought he might be able to modify his work to help contain the spill in the challenging high-wind, high-wave Gulf. He called on his friend Barker, a former mayor of Destin and a product development engineer, to help him. The pair estimate they have been through almost 50 prototyping phases already and have partnered with a large marine company to install the curtain. They estimate it will cost $200,000 to install and another $500,000 a month to operate.

Development proceeded at a rapid pace because similar devices had been used in other countries to control spills. "We took the existing base, and we expanded upon it and simply overcame challenges as they were presented," Barker says.





THE BRAINS BEHIND THE BUBBLES: Destin locals put life on hold to save waterways (PHOTOS and VIDEO)

With more than 1,100 hours on the drawing board and hundreds of conceptual plans in the books, Craig Barker and Capt. Donnie Brown have a plan to keep oil from invading Destin harbor and Choctawhatchee Bay.

“We have been working so hard at this,” said Barker, the former Destin mayor. “I feel as though this harbor and the bay are our greatest assets. I am willing to do anything and everything humanly possible to save it.”

What started out as a smaller scale idea of Brown’s grew into a tangible pneumatic air curtain with the help of Barker, who is a product development engineer by trade.

The pneumatic air curtain, which is run by twelve giant compressors, will pump air through a pipe that is suspended in the water column, creating bubbles. As the bubbles leave the pipe, they gain velocity and size, and when they reach the surface the bubbles create a force in all directions. The force of the bubbles on the water’s surface will create a barrier that would force underwater oil to the surface. A skimmer could then collect the oil.

The curtain will stretch 1,270 feet from the southeast side of Norriego Point to “the bend” in the beach near the west jetty.

The idea was conceived after Barker talked to longtime friend Brown, who was working on a similar concept that could be used in commercial marinas to clean up fuel leaks and oil spills. Capt. Brown is the owner of PumpOut USA, which specializes in boat services and maintenance products.



PUMPED UP FOR PUMPING OUT: Free marine waste removal service ‘just about a reality'

After years of returning to the drawing board, Capt. Donnie Brown and his associates are on the verge of providing free pump out service to Destin area boaters.

Brown owns and operates PumpOut USA, which was founded in direct response to the growing concerns about the environmental and ecological impacts of inter-coastal vessel sewage dumping. The company has expanded to service responsible boaters around the country and in Canada.




City Receives Delivery of Pump-Out Boat - Florida DEP Assists in Purchase With Award of Grant

The City of St. Augustine took another step forward this past week in its to preparation to install mooring fields within the city boundaries by receiving the city’s first ever pump-out boat that will service city waters.

PumpOut USA, the contractor who built the 1,000 gallon pump-out boat delivered it to the City this past Monday. Training on the new boat began immediately for Marina staff.

The City was fortunate to receive a $69,000 Florida of Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to help pay for the boat. The cost to the City was only $23,000. 


The 22’ boat holds approximately 1,000 gallons of waste which, based upon an average of a full 40 gallons on a boat, the pump-out boat can service between 25-30 boats before being emptied at the Marina. At the Marina, the effluent is pumped directly into the city main sewer lines which is then pumped directly to the Wastewater Treatment Plant located at the end of Riberia St. where it’s treated according to all state and federal regulations.





From doing pumpouts to building the boats
Florida man's company now makes four models of task-specific sewage collection vessels
Soundings Trade Only Magazine, May, 2007



Coming To A Head

Environmental awareness, federal waterway cleanup funds promise to open new markets from marine pumpout boats and floating restrooms.




Floating bathroom boat makes waves
11-12-2006, 08:50 AM


HILTON HEAD - Complete with air conditioning, hot-water showers, four toilets and two sinks, it's an unlikely candidate for Hilton Head Island's newest tourist attraction.
But the small yellow building surrounded by a white picket fence is fixed on a 30-foot catamaran hull. That's right, it's a floating bathroom boat - thought to be the first of its kind on the S.C. coast.

It's generating a lot of interest at its new location tied to the pier at Broad Creek Marina.

"Everybody walks by and says 'What in the heck is that?'" said Jeff Quinn, operations manager for the marina. "It's pretty unique, and it's really getting a lot of attention."

The floating restroom will spend most of its time tied to the docks at Broad Creek Marina, but it's capable of being towed out into area waters for regattas, fishing tournaments and other events. Use of the facility is free of charge.

Powered by a solar-panel-charged battery to run the lights and heat the water, the bathroom boat doesn't have an engine, but small vessels can tow it easily.

The bathroom was bought through an $86,000 grant from the state Office of Ocean and Coastal and Resource Management as part of the federal Clean Vessel Act program, said Dan Burger, an OCRM spokesman. The act aims to educate the public on the importance of proper waste disposal and providing the equipment to help them do so. Broad Creek Marina is pitching in money for operating costs. Another grant was issued to the marina for a pump-out boat to transport waste from the floating restroom's two 750-gallon tanks into a sewer system. Both vessels are manufactured by DeFuniak Springs, Fla.-based PumpOut USA.

"The grant program's focus is promoting water-quality protection," Burger said.



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