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Miles of Oil Containment Boom Sit in Warehouse, Waiting for BP or U.S. to Use

An enterprising businessman put his factory in overdrive, figuring the country needed his product and his workers needed overtime. He's making enough to stem the shortage. Why is everyone ignoring him?

by
Gregory Sullivan

Bio

June 8, 2010 - 12:36 pm
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Maine, like the rest of the country, is suffering from very high unemployment. But its residents aren’t out of work because they aren’t useful; they’re useful, but out of work because there’s nothing much useful to do. Lapoint was able to immediately add two shifts of competent and motivated workers, and by the fourth day of production was making forty thousand feet of boom a day.

It’s likely they could make even more. But no one was ready to purchase it.

New England Cable News reported on June 3 from Packgen’s facility, interviewing John Lapoint about the frustration of trying to get anyone from either BP or the federal government to commit to purchase his boom:

Two weeks ago BP sent a quality control person to Maine, looked at the factory, and was impressed by what he saw. Packgen was feeling confident. That confidence has now turned to frustration. Packgen says BP controls who the boom suppliers are going to be — and they have yet to approve Packgen’s design.

John: “We’re going to allow BP, who caused the problem, to monitor and determine who gets the money and how that money is spent and how the land is going to be protected?”

John Lapoint says the government stepped in to take over the car industry, and the banks, and he believes it should be taking over this situation, too.

The first pictures of shorebirds covered in oil have made their way through the media now. These pictures tug at the heartstrings, no doubt, but it’s jarring to think I’ve never seen a picture of any of the eleven human beings who lost their lives in the accident that caused the spill. Some things that interest the media and the public more than others — eliciting remarks on the costs and dangers of drilling for oil a mile below the surface of the ocean, or on the intransigence and incompetence of BP, or the government, or both.

Two Packgen engineers went to the gulf recently to see for themselves what was happening — they say they saw booms that were sinking and contractors begging for boom — but they won’t buy anything that isn’t BP approved. Meanwhile, Lapoint has slowed production, started storing boom in a warehouse, and now waits for BP to say yay or nay.

Will John Lapoint be able sell his boom to BP or the U.S. government? Will he make more? Will he go broke waiting, and lay everyone off again? Will someone finally decide to purchase it, and by the time it arrives on scene, find out it was needed weeks ago and now it’s just a waste?

Hard to predict. But John Lapoint’s sweating a hard lesson right now, a microcosm of the malaise that currently infects the whole country. This isn’t a Field of Dreams economy anymore, where “if you build it, they will come.” You can build it if you like. Doesn’t mean anyone will come. And waiting for the government to make people come is a very hard job indeed.

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Gregory Sullivan founded and writes for The Rumford Meteor.
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