AUGUST 19, 2008


SAN FRANCISCO – Matter of Trust is proud to be the fiscal sponsor for a new oil spill remediation project in the Presidio. Cleaning up oil still means you have the bags of waste that you’ve removed from the spill site. Conventionally all of this should be incinerated. But there may be other solutions.

Thomas Azwell, who is with Norman Terry’s lab at UC Berkeley, is researching thermophyllic composting and vermiculture (worms) to breakdown the toxic mess and make fertilizer as an alternative to the conventional incineration of oil spill waste.

First, the waste is composted and naturally reaches detoxifying temperatures of over 160 degrees over several weeks. The bacteria in the compost piles work diligently to break down the hydro carbons in the oily mess. Then, when it’s ready, it’s time for the vermiculture.

Thanks to a generous grant from Patagonia, Thomas Azwell is working with our oil spill hair mats waste and he’s bringing along some friends. 5000 worms will be munching away at compost heaps that are 1 part toxic waste 10 parts green waste. It is actually the bacteria in the tummies of the worms that are doing the work. But the worms are great indicators of whether or not the composting process has broken down the toxins enough for the worms to be able to digest the waste and excrete a useful fertilizer.  The worms litterally rear up and back away in disgust if the waste is still too toxic.

Although, first choice is always to have professionals do oil spill clean up, as it is unhealthy and messy. However, “We love this project, because every disenfranchised area, that is coping with abandoned oil spills, has access to hair, green waste and worms. Hair mats can soak up and remove the oil from waterways. Green waste and worms can remediate the waste and produce fertilizer without incineration and release of particulate matter. If professionals aren’t available to clean up an oil spill mess and years go by, it’s important for communities to learn that they have the resources to inexpensively fix the problems themselves. This research is very empowering and we’re delighted to be a part of it!” Lisa Craig Gautier, founder of Matter of Trust.

Matter Of Trust, established in 1998, is an ecological public charity that concentrates on man-made surplus, natural abundance and eco-education.

Press Contact:
Lisa Craig Gautier
President, Matter of Trust
415 235 2403 cell

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