Workers at Fagerdala World Foams AB's extrusion facility in Marysville, Mich., are turning their expertise in flotation devices into part of the ongoing effort to try and control some of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Since May, the company has been producing polyethylene floats that are a key part of the containment booms spread throughout the gulf to try to protect beaches, marshes and other areas at risk from the oil.
Our employees have bent over backwards doing everything they can, said Ed Stowell, a sales account manager with Fagerdala USA. They know how important it is for everyone down there.
Fagerdala, with a global headquarters in Gustavsberg, Sweden, extrudes expanded polystyrene, expanded polypropylene and PE for a variety of products at Marysville. Its PE foam is used in mattresses and is best known in the consumer marketplace as pool noodles, the narrow foam float toys used as a flotation device in waters all over North America.
It also has produced a 6-inch-diameter PE foam for a variety of industrial applications.
Shortly after the BP plc deep-water oil well exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in April allowing millions of gallons to escape from the damaged wellhead every day Fagerdala got a call from Prestige Products Inc., a Walker, Mich.-based vinyl awning maker that had just received an order from BP to begin making containment booms.
A containment boom has both the visible float system at the top of the water, and up to 48 inches of material below the water, typically made of a vinyl-coated polyester or nylon. In the gulf, they are being used to try and block oil from reaching sensitive areas.
Brian Rickel, a partner in Prestige Products, has a work history in the oil industry. BP called on him and his company to shift into high gear making as many booms as they could to deploy throughout the gulf. Prestige turned to Fagerdala to supply 6-inch logs for the vital flotation device on the booms.
The company also is making boom floats for other companies that have begun production on the parts, he said.
It's sickening to me because it's going to affect the region long after they shut this down, Stowell said. The more we can do to prevent this from spreading, the better.
In a normal year, Fagerdala workers would be just wrapping up the summer rush to stock shelves with pool noodles and finally be able to relax, he said. Knowing what is at stake in the gulf, though, has provided extra incentive, even though the larger floats require additional manual labor for packaging, shipping and other operations.
They're working their hearts out, he said. We're just glad that we're able to assist in this disaster.
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