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Eastman, Geocell sign exclusive copolyester supply agreement for stocking sandbags

Eastman Chemical Company : 18 October, 2002  (Application Story)
Eastman Chemical Company has signed an agreement with Geocell Systems, Inc., to be the exclusive supplier of copolyester materials used in Geocell
Eastman Chemical Company has signed an agreement with Geocell Systems, Inc., to be the exclusive supplier of copolyester materials used in Geocell’s Rapid Deployment Flood Wall (RDFW) grid. RDFW is a new and revolutionary fortification technology that can replace the outdated task of filling and stacking sandbags. In addition to flood control, the technology also has applications for military force protection and homeland security.

Federal, state and local elected officials, as well as community leaders and representatives of emergency management agencies, attended a demonstration of the RDFW at Eastman’s Kingsport, Tenn., site earlier this week. They got a firsthand look at why this new technology is a faster, less expensive and less labor intensive alternative to sandbags. The RDFW is an expandable, stackable, modular wall made of a tough, lightweight, environmentally responsible plastic that can be filled with sand or other locally available fill material for use in a number of disaster emergency and military protection applications.

Eastman Specialty Plastics, a business unit of Eastman, developed the advanced plastic materials needed for this revolutionary technology and partnered with Geocell Systems Inc. and Spartech Corporation, a plastics extruder, to develop the RDFW. “This is an innovative use of Eastman products that could save lives and prevent the needless destruction of property from flooding and also can be used strategically for security purposes, said Brian Ferguson, Eastman’s chairman and CEO. “While we're working closely with Geocell to establish this technology in the United States, we're very excited about its potential globally, especially as a flood-fighting tool.”

Filled with sand or other locally available fill material, the RDFW can be constructed in one-twentieth the time, using only one-fifth the labor, of a comparable sandbag wall. With RDFW, a crew of six people and one loader operator can construct a fortification wall 100 feet long, four feet wide and four feet high in just one hour. An equivalent sandbag wall requires 35 laborers over 19 hours to construct.

“Until now, there has been no other choice but to use sandbags for flooding emergencies and rapid force protection needs,” said Al Arellanes, president of Geocell Systems. “In developing a new flood fighting concept, we experimented with various plastic materials until we discovered a specialty plastic produced by Eastman that met our criteria for a material that was clear, tough, flexible and environmentally responsible. As a result, we now have a much more efficient means for expedient flood fighting and force protection needs that could save millions of dollars, countless hours and untold heartache in the future.”

Like sandbags, RDFW is a flexible tool with multiple applications. From a military standpoint, RDFW’s speed can be used to rapidly establish blocking positions, forward operating points and fire support bases. Originally designed and Army-tested for bomb blast protection, RDFW can serve as a direct replacement for sandbags in a wide variety of field fortifications, including standoff blast protection, artillery emplacement shelters, bunker wall construction and vehicular barriers.

RDFW also is ideal for both diversion and containment of water or other liquids. It is more cost efficient than sandbags, and because it is reusable, RDFW becomes dramatically more competitive after its first use. In its first use, RDFW is about 90 percent of the cost of sandbag walls when employing volunteer labor and about one-third of the cost when reused. In addition, sandbags only last about 30 days, can become contaminated and usually require costly disposal at designated landfills. The sand or other fill material can be stockpiled or reused as needed for other projects, and RDFW segments collapse for easy storage and reuse.

RDFW is the result of a cooperative research and development agreement between Geocell Systems and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps’ Engineering Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, Miss., conducted extensive flood protection analysis that resulted in successful testing of Geocell’s RDFW to hold 40 inches of static water and withstand wave action equal to that which would be experienced during the most severe flood emergencies.

“RDFW could easily protect high value assets,” said George Turk, former research hydraulic engineer, Vicksburg District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “In flood fights, you could use grids to quickly and efficiently close gaps in levees for railroad crossings, roads and such.”

Geocell is a minority-owned, small business based in Mountain View, Calif., with more than 20 years of flood-fighting experience. Geocell has a long history of joint development work with the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and since the early 1980s has been licensed by USACE to manufacture, sell, and distribute its sand confinement products. Spartech Corporation is a leading producer of engineered thermoplastic materials, polymeric compounds, and molded and profile products, which has 45 facilities located throughout North America and Europe, with annual production capacity and sales of more than 1.2 billion pounds and $900 million, respectively.
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