As a web-toed, gilled, fish-human mutant in the epic flick Waterworld, Kevin Costner used his Yankee ingenuity to rescue mankind from a world not only inundated by our most precious natural resource, but terrorized by a grimy army of “smokers"—aptly named, given their preferred mode of transportation: fume-spewing salvaged jetskis. The filthy troop’s leader (and the Mariner’s nemesis) is Dennis Hopper’s “Deacon, a disciple of Big Oil and aspirant to Joe Hazelwood, the infamous captain of the Exxon Valdez. Given that history repeats itself, could Costner yet again save us from ourselves—this time, in the Gulf of Mexico?
Apparently, while Costner was filming Waterworld—which debuted in 1995 and cost “a staggering $235 million” to make—he was also investing his own millions into a technology designed to clean up after oil spills.
Next week, BP plans to test the enterprise, which entails giant stainless steel centrifugal oil separators. "The machines are essentially like big vacuum cleaners, which sit on barges and suck up oily water and spin it around at high speed," Costner’s partner, Louisiana attorney John Houghtaling, told the Los Angeles Times. "On one side, it spits out pure oil, which can be recovered. The other side spits out 99% pure water" (some reports say 97%).
The technology was originally developed after the Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill in 1989, according to the LA Times. Costner and Houghtaling bought it and sent it for fine-tuning by a team of researchers (including his brother). As many as 26 of the machines, which vary in size, could be sent throughout the gulf, Houghtaling said. Ten of their largest ones—the biggest weighs 2.5 tons—could potentially clean two million gallons a day.
"It certainly is an odd thing to see a 'Kevin Costner' and a 'centrifugal oil separator' together in a place like the Gulf of Mexico," actor Stephen Baldwin told the LA Times (he's producing a documentary about the spill). "But, hey, some of the best ideas sometimes come from the strangest places."
For more on Waterworld and a list of top 10 environmental films, click here.