Line Sweep panorama, by Vaughn Solo. Click to enlarge!

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.

Le Wrench and Feralina, lovin' their work.

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!

Let Booyah show you how to clean up an oil spot.

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!

A burn scar with cinders and wire. Photo by Bubblegique.

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.

This nail has probably only been buried for a year or two.
Anybody lose their pliers... in 2009?

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.

Thanks for flagging that, but...

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.

About the author: The Hun

The Hun

The Hun, also known as J.H. Fearless, has been blogging for Burning Man (and many other outlets) since 2005, which is also the year she joined the BRC DPW on a whim that turned out to be a ten-year commitment. Since then she's won some awards for blogging, built her own creative business, and produced some of the Burning Blog's most popular stories and series. She co-created a grant-funded art piece, "Refoliation," in 2007, and stood next to it watching the Man burn on Monday night during a full lunar eclipse. She considers that, in many ways, to have been the symbolic end of Burning Man that was. The Hun lives in Reno with DPW Shade King, Quiet Earp. You may address her as "The Hun" or "Hun". If you call her "Honey" she reserves the right to cut you.

17 Comments on “MOOP MAP LIVE: 2011’s Top MOOP

  • Parracky Parrot says:

    Will the Playa Restoration Team also work on the road in/out of the city?
    Thousands of cars idling for hours – dripping oil, spurting coolant etc. must make a mess on it’s own.
    Not to mention all those pot holes: I got stuck in one of them and needed to go to 4X4 mode to get out. That’s a deep hole.

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  • G says:

    Does “lot D” get attention too?

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  • Neon says:

    Just wanted to let you know me and my campmates are really enjoying following your progress and hearing the lowdown on the moop sweep.

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  • The Hun says:

    Parracky Parrot, G – Yep, we sweep Gate Road and the entire Gate area as well. Basically anything that was Burning Man, we check it out.

    Neon – Yay, thanks!

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  • SuperDrunk says:

    I’m actually surprised that cigarette butts weren’t higher on that list.

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  • recycling whore says:

    for people with messed-up wrists and such — while you’re going about breaking down your camp and de-MOOPifying your area, sink a little water (yes, you have extra at the end of Burning Man, right?) around the pesky rebar. come back in a few minutes and ooze some more around it. eventually, there will be mud around your stake instead of packed playa. pull the fucking thing up at that point.

    or, easier, go find buff-looking people and ask them to do it for you. (this is especially difficult to stomach, however, if you are a small female.)

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  • Crissa says:

    We invested in a weed-wrench – basically the orange stake pulling tool they use on the poles – but I must note, the smallest size bends them and still needs a firm surface to work with. Vice-grips work, but wrists do get tired. We’ve had to resort to shovels before – but that was 2008 and it was very windy that year.

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  • Patricia Love Bliss says:

    I’d like to suggest the new term: MIP – Matter In Place – to include all items that were previously MOOP and have been cleaned up, items that have been immediately placed in the right place, to be hauled off the playa, and taken to the landfill, or recycled, etc. Keep it MIP! ~Patricia Love Bliss, San Diego CA

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  • Sunset says:

    Seemed to me that a very large portion of the burners had feathers on this year.

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  • Cindy Na'ea says:

    I believe the no feather rule applies to boa’s in particular, feathers that are part of a well constructed head piece or that are applied as semi-permanent hair design are not any more of a MOOP risk than any number of other random body or hair adornments.

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  • eve says:

    ah, pistachio shells, my mortal enemy!
    miss you moonwalkers

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  • The Hun says:

    SuperDrunk – Cigarette butts are one of those things that everybody knows about, and I think people have really been making an effort to control them. Yes, there are TONS of butts — but I wanted to focus on the types of MOOP people might not be aware of. Aside from the wood chips which were definitely #1, it’s hard to define which of these is more common than the others. Not so much an ordered list as a group of offenders.

    recycling whore, Crissa – Yes, water helps too! And a stake puller, good suggestion. As for the wrist issue: We often try to turn the vice grips and rebar in a circle rather than wiggling it back and forth, to avoid the joint stress. Use your legs to push and lift, rather than just your arms, and throw your weight into it so you can keep your arms relatively straight.

    Patricia Love Bliss – We’ve been known to discuss MOOP vs. MIP now and then, and you’re absolutely right.

    Sunset, Cindy Na’ea – There did seem to be more feathers this year, and yes, it’s particularly the feather boas that create the issue because they’re not well made. It’s all about how things are attached to you, so no matter what you’re wearing, make sure it won’t fall apart!


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  • Gerflash says:

    On removing rebar stakes, that ancient Greek, Archimedes, had it knocked when he said: “Give me a place to stand and a lever, and I can move the Earth.”
    We use a long (2 ft or so) scrap steel pipe (that doesn’t bend!) and a fairly square piece of 2×4″ or better, a 2×6″ or 2×8″ that we cut diagonally into a “stairstep” (thus giving us two of ’em). Then, for bent rebars, we just slip the pipe under the bend, and over a low stairstep a few inches back. This makes a killer lever that no rebar can resist. After you’ve lifted the rebar an inch or so, move the lever up to the next step and repeat that until the rebar has been defeated. For non-bent rebar, just add a vise grip (tightly!) to it, and you have effectively added a “bend.”
    Been using the same stairsteps for 5 years. They get a new paint job yearly, to go with the theme, and to minimize any chipping off of their wood. Works great.

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  • Also says:

    I wanted to share with you a way that I helped keep the playa extra clean this year… BRIBERY! I held onto a whole case of otter pops in my rv’s little freezer until Sunday when I bribed (very loudly, and on a bullhorn) everyone within earshot – for every 25 pieces of MOOP that you picked up and brought to my camp, I would give you an Otter Pop! (Flavor of your choice of course!)

    I had tons of people help out, even people just passing by. They were grabbing MOOP from the street, from neighboring camps, and even near porta potties – and I went through those otter pops quickly! But our little area on the map looks green so I’d say it was successful!

    NOTE: All the MOOP that was brought to us, we packed up, and drove it across 3 states before disposing of it at my house.

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  • Richard Smoke says:

    MOOP Meance #2: Water.

    The instructions I read dealt with disposal of grey water, not clean water. Accordingly, believing it acceptable, I spread 5 gals. of clean water over my campsite, much as the DPW trucks watered the roads.

    If disposing of clean water is verboten, that should also be stated in the guidelines.

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  • Wood Stoves says:

    Ya know, it would be great to see this on foxnews or other network stations. Bravo to ya’ll because it will get out and I have seen people in our neck of the woods starting projects just like this but in the woods. Although we have some desert we are mainly wood country. Congrats and thanks for vid’s an pics.

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  • spike says:

    Hi all, thanks for your efforts. My camp (MVR, inside the 5:30, Rod’s Road, and A intersection) showed up yellow on the low-res moop map. Is there a high-res map? Wood chips etc were high on our list of what to watch for, along with other construction and repair debris. Apparently they should have been higher. Thanks again, see you next year.

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