Hey there sports fans, MOOP maniacs and line sweepers extraordinaire! The Hun here, reporting from Gerlach where the DPW Playa Restoration team is steadily returning the Black Rock Desert to its stark and dusty glory.
After a couple of weeks doing Restoration work, we’ve got a pretty good idea of 2011’s most common MOOP. You might be surprised to hear that the worst offenders change from year to year. That’s because of YOU, and the efforts you make.
For example, we used to have a lot of trouble with feathers, plant matter and Astroturf. We spread the word to the community and asked you not to bring your feather boas, tree branches, straw bales and imitation lawns. And it worked! When we tell the community about our MOOP problems, those problems tend to go away, and for that we are endlessly grateful.
Yet, as we eradicate one type of MOOP, another rears its head. And so I present to you this year’s most common MOOP, and what you can do to prevent it next year!
MOOP Menace #1: Wood Chips, Splinters and Bark
Phoenix Firestarter, a Special Forces Manager, says that “2011 was brought to you by wood chips.” Wood chips and splinters — from firewood, construction and plywood — were far and away this year’s worst offender.
Here’s Phoenix, with everything you need to know about wood and how to deal with it.
MOOP Menace #2: Water/Oil/Fuel/Paint Stains
Spills happen. Maybe your evap pond got a little splashy, or you used a tarp that seeped water onto the playa surface. Maybe your art car has an ill-fitting O-ring somewhere. Most of the time, it isn’t on purpose. But sometimes it is.
This year, we found an abundance of water spots where people had dumped out their coolers, or in a couple of cases their gray water tanks. The Special Forces team spent many hours digging up a fuel spill that contaminated a large amount of playa. When they’d removed the contamination, the crater was big enough for a person to fit inside. Still, those instances are rare. More frequently, it’s a little oil spot or a place where water was spilled, or some oversprayed paint.
The best way to deal with these contamination spots is to prevent them from ever happening. Put a pan under your car if it leaks oil. Make an evap pond that won’t spill or seep. Set up an LNT plan for your camp that takes gray water into account, so you aren’t stuck with a brimming tank at the end of the week.
If it does hit the playa, you need to remove it. Oil, paint and gray water contaminate the earth, so you’ll need to scoop up the affected dirt with a shovel and put it in a trash bag, and pack it out. Don’t forget to fill in the hole afterward!
Shower spots, roads and other watered areas are often packed hard, and they may contain hair and other shower-y things that are caked into the playa. In that case, use a metal rake to break it up and free any buried MOOP. Here’s Tomcat talking about why we use rakes:
MOOP Menace #3: Burn Scars
Of course we have burn scars! This is Burning Man, after all. Still, burning things directly on the playa surface will cause the earth to oxidize, contaminating it. That’s why we have raised burn platforms. For big art pieces that will burn, DPW sets out a layer of protection that helps keep the playa itself from fire damage.
If you’re planning to burn something, set up a platform or other protective surface to keep the fire off the playa. If you do happen to create a burn scar, scoop the contaminated dirt up with a shovel and pack it out with you. Once again, don’t forget to fill in that hole afterward!
MOOP Menace #5: Metal Hardware
Screws, bolts, washers, nails and staples have a tendency to fall and disappear almost immediately into the dirt. There, they oxidize very quickly, and a couple years later they “float” to the surface after big rains.
If you’re building a structure that uses metal hardware, invest in a magnet rake. It will suck all those little metal pieces back out of the dirt, so you can pack them out.
Here’s Drink Water, a Special Forces manager, demonstrating the amazing magnet rake:
MOOP Menace #6: Tent Stakes and Rebar
This type of MOOP occurs year after year, and the reason is clear: Once you get that stake into the ground, it can be very, very difficult to get it out again.
I’ve mentioned stakes and rebar before, but it bears repeating. All you need to extract them is a set of vise grips, or maybe a shovel. Check out this instructional video from DPW’s Patches the Jew:
MOOP Menace #7: Cigarette Butts
Ah, the omnipresent cigarette butt. You know what to do about this: Bring a portable ashtray made from a mint tin, and never let it hit the ground. And if you’re a smoker (or even if you’re not) and you spot a butt on the ground… PICK IT UP!
Honorable Mention: Pistachio Shells and Feathers
Pistachio shells and feathers are familiar friends from years past. For a long time, we haven’t seen them… but they’re starting to return to the playa. Remember, organic matter can still be MOOP! Don’t bring stuff that will just turn into litter.
Biting your nails in anticipation of the next MOOP Map results? Well don’t worry — this reporter works weekends. It’ll be here as soon as we finish compiling the data. ‘Til then, this is The Hun signing off.