If Scott Smith had superpowers, he’d be the Toxic Avenger. The founder of OPFLEX®, a water decontamination technology, and Chief Scientist for national organizationWater Defense, Scott makes his home on the Cape so we stole a few minutes of his time as he responds to a major spill in Lynchburg, VA.
So what is OPFLEX®?
OPFLEX® is an open-celled flexible foam that essentially mimics the alveoli of the human lungs. It attracts oil and contaminants, but lets water flow through. Its large surface area makes it efficient, and it’s reusable and biodegradable in landfills. From heavy slicks to light sheen that might impact wildlife, it has proven highly effective in oil spill clean up. After the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, BP received 120,000 ideas to help with the clean up; from those it chose OPFLEX® to assist in purifying the Gulf of Mexico.
What’s the Water Defense partnership with Cape Cod Community College about?
Water Defense founder, Mark Ruffalo and I were introduced around the same time that CCCC’s environmental studies department had approached me. It was just destiny in terms of our ability to make an impact on water quality. We shared a vision about working with community colleges to arm the next generation to diagnose and solve these problems. It made perfect sense to work with 4Cs to test, monitor and clean Cape waters as part of our effort to develop new water monitoring methods that use OPFLEX® to “fingerprint” chemicals. It’s not about pointing fingers; it’s everyone’s problem and we all need to participate in solutions.
Why does a spill somewhere else matter for the Cape?
We’re all connected by water – that’s why we should care. If a contaminant spills in Mayflower, AR, it ultimately makes its way to the East Coast. On Cape Cod, we have a sole-source aquifer and we’re surrounded by water and wetlands. It’s incredibly special, but we may find ourselves without a clean water source.
What can Cape Codders do?
You’d be surprised at the cumulative effect of making small changes and being more aware. As summer approaches, make sure your boat bilges aren’t leaking. Think twice about putting any oil down the drain – it blocks light to fish and plants, which has dramatic downstream effects on the environment and water quality.
What’s your favorite place on Cape Cod?
I love the relatively unspoiled Wellfleet/Truro area. It inspires me to help restore Cape Cod to what it once was. There’s also nothing better than The Beachcomber’s oyster shooters … but you’ll definitely need a designated driver!