By Vic Bradshaw
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER - Acity company's involvement in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill cleanup along the Gulf Coast has led to an environmental award in Virginia. GearClean Inc., the North Cameron Street company that specializes in dry-ice industrial cleaning and remediation, was presented a silver 2011 Governor's Environmental Excellence Award in Lexington Wednesday during the Environment Virginia Symposium.
The awards are presented annually to recognize the state's environmental and conservation leaders. Art Major, the company's president and the City Council's vice president, accepted the award.
In the application he submitted for the award, Major outlined how the company used a new application of dry-ice blasting technology to clean vessels involved in the oil spill.
He also included ways that GearClean uses dry-ice blasting as an ecologically friendly way to clean industrial equipment, remove mold and lead paint, and mitigate water or fire damage.
"I was humbled by what I would consider a small company like ours being [among the award recipients] with MillerCoors [Shenandoah Brewery] and DuPont," Major said. "It was very humbling to be up there with those industrial giants.
"That just shows that it doesn't matter who you are, you can make innovations to reduce harmful impacts to the environment," he said.
The company, which also cleans sporting gear and firefighters' uniforms, was founded four years ago. Major said the environmental honor is the first award GearClean has received.
In applying for the award, he called the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to ask if the agency would consider honoring a Virginia company that had a significant accomplishment outside the Old Dominion. The gulf cleanup project was the largest dry-ice blasting project in the technology's 63-year history.
Major said he was encouraged to apply and to include ways GearClean is using and could use dry-ice blasting in Virginia.
Bill Hayden, spokesman for DEQ, said Virginia officials have occasionally recognized companies for work done in another state in the 16 years the awards have been presented.
"What impressed the judges and the reason for the award," he said, "is that the concept was developed in Virginia and has far-reaching implications."
Major said he thought including ways that the technology could be used to replace water-and-solvent cleaning was important.
"I had a lot of conversations with other award winners interested in the technology, and the comment I heard most was that it was just so different than other things awards were being presented for and had been presented for in the past," he said.
GearClean was involved in the Deepwater Horizon cleanup effort from May to December 2010 because Major realized the dry-ice blasting technique it used in mold remediation also could be used to decontaminate ships leaving the spill zone to keep harbor waters unspoiled.
Dry-ice blasting involves the propulsion of frozen carbon dioxide pellets at high velocity at substances to be removed from surfaces. The substances are blasted off without damaging the surfaces, and residue cleanup is easy.
At its peak, GearClean and its partner in the oil spill cleanup had 350 employees working in 24 locations.
Officials with British Petroleum (BP), the company responsible for the cleanup effort, declined comment on how dry-ice blasting aided the spill recovery. But Major's award application included comments from Troy Aycock, his contact with BP operations.
"When you're dealing with hazardous waste, the No. 1 priority is to reduce and reuse," he is quoted as saying. "The GearClean dry-ice blasting process is the most environmentally friendly cleanup tool I have had the opportunity to work with firsthand."
The application said GearClean is working with Virginia companies to eliminate the use of hazardous or caustic cleaning solutions.
- Contact Vic Bradshaw at email@example.com