Tester urges Coast Guard to use Montana company’s technology in Gulf Coast cleanup

Senator visits Floating Islands International in Shepherd

(SHEPHERD, Mont.) – Senator Jon Tester is urging the U.S. Coast Guard to use technology developed in Montana to help clean up oil caused by BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Floating Islands International, headquartered in Shepherd, Mont., designs and builds islands that float on water.  Each island serves as a “pollution sponge,” harboring microbes and plants that feed off excess nutrients—even from oil—in dirty water.  The process quickly and effectively purifies water and creates healthy plant and wildlife habitat.

“The concept of ‘floating treatment wetland’ is being discovered as a remarkably cost effective means by which to clean up water naturally, and Montana is where the thinking is happening,” said Bruce Kania, the inventor of the floating islands.

Floating Islands International attended Tester’s Treasure State Export Seminar in Billings in June.  Tester recently asked the Coast Guard to consider the technology as it works to clean oil from the sensitive wetlands on the Gulf Coast.

Tester visited the Floating Islands headquarters on the banks of the Yellowstone River Friday to see the technology firsthand.  The company has several floating islands that treat purify river water.

“Floating Islands is a Montana success story that ought to be a part of the equation as we look for new, innovative ways to address polluted water in the Gulf of Mexico and across the world,” Tester said.  “Montana is home to a lot of great ideas and brilliant minds.  They’re doing good work, creating good jobs and making the world a better place for our kids and grandkids.”

Six companies around the world are licensed to build floating islands with the technology developed in Shepherd.  One of those manufacturers, based in Baton Rouge, recently launched a “floating boom” to prevent oil from reaching wetlands on the Gulf shore.

Floating islands in the Gulf could treat as much as 14 million gallons of oil-contaminated water per day, Kania said.

Four thousand floating islands are currently in place throughout the world.  Kania said his company is now developing a larger model called the “Leviathan,” an island capable of treating a million gallons of water per minute.

Tester’s recent letter to the U.S. Coast Guard appears below.


Admiral Robert Papp
United States Coast Guard
2100 2nd Street, SW
Room 2208
Washington, DC 20593

Dear Admiral Papp:        

I write to express my appreciation for the Coast Guard’s efforts to look to small businesses to help solve the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico caused by British Petroleum and the Deepwater Horizon explosion.  I join with all Montanans in expressing my disgust that BP appears to have had no response plan in the event of such a disaster, and I very much hope that you will use every tool at the Coast Guard’s disposal to ensure that this can never happen again. 

I understand that the Coast Guard is turning its focus from stopping the oil leak to limiting damage to and remediation of onshore areas affected by this man-made oil spill.  With that in mind, it is once again my pleasure to recommend Floating Island International, a small business in Shepherd, Montana.  Floating Island creates small floating islands that can be oil "sponges” that may be capable of treating as much as 14 million gallons of oil-contaminated water per day, as well as using separate technology to create island “booms” that could potentially prevent oil from reaching wetlands or other sensitive shoreline. 

On June 7, Floating Island submitted a proposal to the Coast Guard.  It is my understanding that the company has recently been contacted by the Coast Guard for further evaluation of its proposal.  I hope that the Coast Guard continues to be interested in the innovative, small business-driven potential solution for the Gulf. 

Thank you very much for your attention to this issue.  Please do not hesitate to contact me further on this or any other matter of concern to the Coast Guard. 

Jon Tester