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Company's alternative to sandbags could save communities

By John Hollenhorst | Posted - Apr 1st, 2010 @ 6:29pm

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BRIGHAM CITY -- A Utah businessman is looking for a good spring flood to jump into -- with his product, to prove its flood-fighting potential.

His invention is drawing attention because it's a substitute for the most basic flood-fighting tool, the sandbag.

The inventor of the Muscle Wall, has a two-fold marketing problem. It's tough to jump from Utah to an emergency fast enough for a good demonstration, and officials are reluctant to spend big money preparing for a flood that might never come.

When a disaster strikes, however, hordes of volunteers work long hours making a sandbag wall to hold back rising water.

But now just two guys -- including Muscle Wall inventor Jaren Taylor -- are doing it all by themselves, putting together a wall of plastic barricades in just a few minutes.

"Each one of these barricades represents 468 sandbags," Taylor said.

If you buy them by the truckload, on the quick deployment trailer you can make a wall 432 feet long.

"It is the equivalent of nearly 34,000 sandbags, which is 55 dump truck loads of sand," he said.

One barricade replaces 468 sandbags and it takes 411,840 sandbags to create a mile-long levee. -Muscle Wall

With the Muscle Wall, a plastic curtain seals off the wall. Each segment is hollow. Just fill each one up with water and they're heavy enough to resist a torrent. Each section weighs 110 pounds. The equivalent in sandbags is 16,000 pounds.

About a demonstration in Northern Utah, Taylor said, "We had about 40,000 gallons of water rushing at it, and it held up and did a fantastic job."

Logan city is experimenting with Muscle Wall to divide circulating streams of wastewater.

Logan City Wastewater Manager Jim Harps said, "[It] has been really great. They're easy to move in, easy to fill and connect and even anchor to the ground."

Taylor's demonstration video has impressed flood control experts. That quick deployment trailer costs $52,000.

"You save one house, you could have bought a mile's worth of this," Taylor said.

But Taylor says the true cost of a single sandbag -- including sand, equipment and cleanup -- is a nearly $3 a bag.

"This ends up being $1.17, equivalent. And it's reusable again and again and again," he said.

Brett Ferrin, sales manager at Interstate Barricades in Layton, says that company took delivery of a trailer full of Muscle Wall last week. It plans to rent it out to cities, counties and contractors.

Taylor has been trying to show it off in flooding situations. But so far, whenever a threat has materialized, it happens too fast to get there. Sometime soon they hope the Muscle Wall will beat a flood and win some respect.



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