Edgefield Native Gets National Press
for Dirt Road–Improving Product
business venture that sprang from the mind of Edgefield native Thomas
Settles received a hefty amount of press last month, making him and his
“invention” – an enzyme that he says will toughen dirt
roads and help them stand up to rain – rank among the ten most viewed
business news articles last week on Yahoo’s popular online search
The story of Settles’s dirt road–saving enzyme was picked
up by the Associated Press, and newspapers, Web sites, and bloggers across
the country carried the article.
Settles was raised in Edgefield on a dirt road that the AP article said
was “so crummy it washed out after a heavy rain and [Settles] sometimes
couldn’t get to school.”
Now 53 years old and living in Atlanta, Settles has bought the rights
to an enzyme called PZ-22X that he says will be the answer to the woes
of communities that can’t afford to pave dirt roads. He calls it
“Pave-Zyme,” and it is currently being tested on dirt roads
across the South. “I did not actually create the enzyme,”
he said in an interview Tuesday from his home in Atlanta, “but I
have the exclusive rights to market it in the United States and in the
Settles, who is the CEO and president of Omega Paving and Environmental
Management Group, said that the enzyme is “an organic, environmentally
friendly liquid enzyme formula that bonds soil and increases compaction,
making roads impervious to water and increasing their load-bearing capacity.”
The product, he says, was proven effective in Jamaica following the 2002
torrential storms that devastated Jamaica’s road infrastructure.
It will doubly benefit dirt road dwellers, he adds, in that it will improve
health (by reducing dust) and will “narrow the education gap between
the rich and poor” because schoolchildren won’t have trouble
getting to school when the rains hit the dirt roads.
Settles knows about missing school because of dirt roads. He grew up on
a dirt road off of Highway 378 in Edgefield and remembers many a day when
his road was “washed out” because of the rain. The son of
Jesse and Kattie Settles, Thomas was one of five siblings, many of whom
still live in the area. There were members of Liberty Springs Church.
Thomas is now married with three children – T. Colin Settles, a
Morehouse graduate and minister, and identical twin daughters Ashley and
Allison, who are both at Auburn University now.
He often returns to Edgefield. In fact, he was in town this past weekend
for the 35th reunion of his class at W.E. Parker. Following his schooling
here, Settles received his undergraduate degree from Talladega College
and later completed graduate work at Florida State University and the
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He went on to work with various
sales, community and business development agencies. Most recently, he
launched his paving company, and sees it as something that will greatly
impact people in rural areas across the nation.
His Pave-Zyme product is currently being tested in several locations across
the South, including Aberdeen, Mississippi, and Macon County, Alabama.
It is applied by mixing it with water and spraying it directly onto the
product ever be used in Edgefield County? We put the question to Guy Mueller,
assistant director of the county’s building and planning department
(which handles road maintenance).
“If it stops erosion and is as cost-effective as he says it is,
then sure, we’d definitely look into it,” he said. “Anything
that would be a cost-saver for dirt roads would be great.” Dirt
roads require significantly more maintenance than paved roads, he said.
The more traffic and rain they get, the worse they become.
Mueller added, “No one has called our office yet to offer a demonstration
of the product.” But even if Settles did propose “Pave-Zyme”
to county officials, it wouldn’t be of any use for the “crummy”
dirt road that he grew up on; it was paved more than a decade ago.