Elastec’s American Marine Division Celebrates 50 Years
ELASTEC TYPE III RuffWater Curtain
American Marine, a new company to help control water pollution, was formed by the late Jim Pierce in Cocoa, Florida, in 1967. Pearce, a highly decorated World War II U.S. fighter ace-turned-test pilot, was also the inventor of the first oil containment boom, fireboom and turbidity curtain (and the first person to break the sound barrier flying an F-86).
In his autobiography, “A 20th Century Guy,” Pearce wrote, “A longtime associate and I joined forces, and with the assistance of my son, Jeff, and a couple of kids from the neighborhood, we formed American Marine, Inc.,” he wrote. The plan was to build Hull Guards, a device used to help small boat owners keep the bottom of their vessels free of barnacles—at a reasonable cost.
Pearce was a U.S. Navy pilot during WWII and spent 16 years in experimental flight testing. That was followed by six years with the Apollo Lunar Landing Program, where he was director of test operations for the manufacturer’s command and service modules.
FIRST OIL CONTAINMENT BOOM
“To add to the line of anti-pollution devices we made at American Marine, I spent my time there designing and developing new products, as well as the tools to build them,” Pearce wrote. An oil spill in nearby Port Canaveral, Florida, led to the development of the company’s first oil containment boom, which led to better designs.
“I got busy designing a real version of an oil boom, which would retain the good features of the prototype but be designed from the start as an oil boom,” he wrote. The American Marine shop was redesigned, and the company bought its first electronic heat sealing machine “to take the place of all the gluing of seams.”
An extruded aluminum quick-connect system was developed to join lengths of oil boom together, now an industry standard. (and that survived as one of two industry-wide standards).
TURBIDITY CURTAINS AND BEYOND
In 1971, a State of Florida environmental engineer asked Pearce to develop a product to contain the silt being stirred up in an Atlantic Coast river by a bridge construction project.
Without much initial knowledge of the problem, Pearce found a solution, and the first turbidity curtains were born.
Throughout the years, American Marine teamed up again and again to help others find solutions requiring fabric welding, including in the manufacturing of water beds. While the company eventually left that industry, its involvement there led it to a lucrative business making floating baffle systems to improve the efficiency of water treatment ponds at sewage treatment plants and other sites.
Around 2012, Elastec, based in Carmi, Illinois, a manufacturer of oil spill recovery equipment, and the inventor of the oleophilic drum oil skimmer, expressed interest and eventually acquired American Marine. The surviving corporation was called Elastec/American Marine, Inc. Today, the company is under one name, Elastec.
Jim Pearce died in 2011, but his legacy of innovation and environmental concern survives him. Jeff Pearce, Jim’s son, remains associated with the company today. Fifty years after American Marine was formed, it remains an integral part of the Elastec mission of “keeping the world clean” with an array of floating containment booms, trash and debris barriers, turbidity curtains, oil skimmer systems, work boats, portable incinerators and vacuum equipment in 155 countries.