The oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has left investors uncertain about the attractiveness of oil and drilling companies. But fewer people are noticing a new certainty that carries the potential for profit: The Gulf's big mess will need to be cleaned up.

That cleanup won't all be done by BP (NYSE: BP), Transocean (NYSE: RIG), Halliburton (NYSE: HAL), or the U.S. government. Much of it will be tackled by other companies, big and small, many of them publicly traded. And many of these companies look like much more attractive investments than the companies facing uncertainties about cleanup expenses, litigation costs, lost productivity costs, and potentially fatal damage to their reputations.

Here are a few enterprises with new business in the Gulf:

  • Fluor (NYSE: FLR): This construction giant is supplying BP with thousands of workers to remove tar from beaches in Alabama and Florida.
  • Lakeland Industries: Cleanup workers need clothing, and Lakeland has been providing protective apparel. In a recent report, its CEO noted that they are at capacity now, with backorders still growing.
  • Nalco Holding (NYSE: NLC): If you've heard the word "dispersant" bandied about in reference to the Gulf spill, that's because more than a million gallons of chemicals have been used to break up oil patches in the Gulf. A key dispersant is Nalco's Corexit. BP has purchased more than $40 million of the stuff in the past few months.
  • Shaw Group (NYSE: SHAW): This company serves energy companies involved in oil, nuclear energy, and more, but it's doing so in a new way lately: by counting birds. Shaw has also won a $360 million contract to build temporary barriers more than 40 miles long. That contract alone represents 5% of the company's annual revenue.
  • Clean Harbors (NYSE: CLH): This decontamination specialist stands to reap at least $50 million, if not much more, from Gulf cleanup efforts -- which will boost its annual take by 5% to 7% or more. (Keep in mind that all these estimates may well keep rising, as this disaster grows in scope and we understand its ramifications better.) Among other things, Clean Harbors has vacuum trucks that can collect oil from inlets as it approaches the coastline.

It might feel awkward to think of profiting from this disaster, but some companies are just in those kinds of businesses. With millions of gallons of oil to be cleaned up, some companies will be doing the work and making money doing so. To share in those profits, consider the businesses above, or start digging for your own potential investments.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article. Try any of our investing newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.