On Thursday, the Christian Science Monitor reported that the design of the new cap system that appears to be stopping the flow of oil from the blown out BP oil well in the Gulf of Mexico is remarkably similar to a design offered anonymously by a plumber:
Six weeks ago, Robert Bea, an engineering professor at the University of California, Berkeley, received a late-night call from an apologetic "mystery plumber." The caller said he had a sketch for how to solve the problem at the bottom of the Gulf. It was a design for a containment cap that would fit snugly over the top of the failed blowout preventer at the heart of the Gulf oil spill.
Professor Bea, a former Shell executive and well-regarded researcher, thought the idea looked good and sent the sketches directly to the US Coast Guard and to a clearinghouse set up to glean ideas from outside sources for how to cap the stubborn Macondo well.
When Bea saw the design of the containment cap lowered onto the well last week, he marveled at its similarity to the sketches from the late-night caller, whose humble refusal to give his name at the time nearly brought Bea to tears.
His name is Joe Caldart, a married, 40-something blue-collar guy with five kids and three hound dogs living in St. Francis, Kan. Mr. Caldart has 907 Facebook friends. He likes the band Rednecks & Red Dirt, watches "Family Guy," and cites the 1978 Burt Reynolds flick "Hooper" as one of his favorites.
As to his decision to go public, Caldart says in an interview with the Monitor, "My wife was, like, ‘This is kind of scary, I don’t know if you should [go public],’ and I said, ‘Yeah and no.’ But I also felt like people should know that here an average guy submitted something that maybe helped."
Caldart’s design was inspired by his experience as a plumber:
The current design is "a steel cap, and underneath it is the internal plug and on top of that is a piston and the flow tube in the middle, and coming down the left side is the warm water inlet tube," says Caldart. "I made that sketch on May 25th."
Caldart, who first started plumbing as a teenager, says he originally sent BP three sketches depicting a flange and plug design similar to those used in high-pressure hotel plumbing on May 25th. At that point, he says he was told by BP that they were not working on stopping the leak, but simply capturing the oil.
With the very encouraging news today that the decision has now been made to keep the cap in place with the flow blocked until the relief well is able to kill the well from below, it is truly refreshing that a design submitted freely by a concerned citizen was able to be implemented with such apparent success. As I pointed out in a diary yesterday, a major issue in American society today is that we are forced to rely on experts who are selling solutions to the problems of the day. Sadly, our government relies far too often on the very experts who have caused the problem to provide more failure in the form of failed solutions. I applaud the more open process that somehow resulted in this implementation of a genuine solution, freely offered by someone who at first didn’t even want their name mentioned.
Thank you, Joe Caldart, for your service to our country and our planet. You are a true hero.