Special Reports

Fla. plumber takes credit for cap design

FORT LAUDERDALE — While thousands labored for months to quell the gusher spewing oil into the Gulf, there’s one unsung hero who claims he designed the cap that finally stanched the flow: Les the Plumber.

“I am very thrilled that they did stop the leak, and I’m glad I had a hand in it,” said Leslie Goldstein, 69, who runs a company, Plumber I Am, out of his Boca Raton home.

Starting in late May, Goldstein began submitting designs for a system, based on simple fire hydrant technology, to cut off the millions of gallons of oil fouling the Gulf. He was among a legion of aspiring spill solvers who flooded BP with suggestions, some wacky, on how to contain the spill.

But Goldstein, a 55-year veteran plumber, went a step further: he copied his proposals to President Barack Obama, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, members of Congress and the news media.

“I sent them all different diagrams with instructions how to do it and everything,” Goldstein said. “I’ve been fighting and fighting and fighting to get my work up there and get them to do something.”

Goldstein’s hand-sketched designs, in the simplest terms, illustrate a plan to connect a valve system to an existing flange on the spill’s leaking blowout preventer.

In early June, BP informed Goldstein via e-mail that they had received his submission. On July 4, he got another e-mail from BP thanking him for his proposal. “Your submission has been reviewed for its technical merits,” the e-mail read. “A similar approach has already been considered or planned for possible implementation.”

Then, on July 16, the front page of the Sun Sentinel featured an illustration of the cap that successfully sealed off the geyser. Goldstein said it matched the design he so ardently pitched to BP.

“When I saw it in the newspaper I was delighted,” he said. “This was my design and here it is in the paper.”

Goldstein was just one of thousands of amateur inventors, engineers and scientists who submitted ideas, some rather curious, on how to cap the leak or curtail the damage. Among the more novel suggestions were oil-eating bacteria, hay spread on oil slicks, or thousands of crab pots filled with fibers to absorb the oil.

In all, some 120,000 ideas were submitted by the public on how to cap the leak or clean up its mess. Of the 77,000 submissions on how to stem the oil flow, 190 were selected for further review. But not one, presumably including Goldstein’s, was adopted for actual use.