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SCDOT Addresses Bridge ‘Tarpageddon’

Friday, August 4, 2017

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The South Carolina Department of Transportation has issued its preliminary report on the mishap that sent containment netting falling onto cars on Charleston’s Don Holt Bridge last month, and the agency says issues with the tarps reported in the days prior did not play into the incident.

The report concentrates largely on the handling of the complaints leading up to the July 19 incident and the response to the containment failure, but does not delve into the root cause of the containment fall itself. SCDOT says parts of the containment system have been sent to an independent lab for analysis, and that contractor Eagle Industrial Painting, of Magnolia, Ohio, is cooperating with the investigation.

Eagle has not commented publicly on the issue and did not return a request for comment in the days after the incident.

Incidents Unrelated

SCDOT explains in its report that the complaints from motorists in the days leading up to the containment failure pertained to the “roof” part of the containment—tarps that were laid over upper the truss. The failure on July 19, though, involved netting on the “floor” part of the containment, underneath the truss.

“The roofing and flooring are independent containment systems,” the report says, “and the loose tarp reported on Sunday was not a factor in the failure that occurred on Wednesday.”

SCDOT says that the contractor secured the roof tarp after the complaints were registered earlier in the week. The contractor reported the completion of the fix, and according to the report, an SCDOT inspector verified the work.

The SCDOT report says that “wind gusts on the bridge deck reached in excess of 60 mph” around the time of the netting failure. The Charleston Post and Courier reports that SCDOT’s Law told the newspaper that wind detectors on the bridge were not operation at the time because they were within the containment.

In the report, the agency refers to the incident as an “unprecedented containment system failure.”

No Lead Concerns

The report also notes that lead is not a concern on the site, pointing out that SCDOT had discontinued the use of lead-based paints years before the Don Holt was built, in 1992. SCDOT spokesperson James Law had previously told PaintSquare Daily News that the agency was reviewing whether lead paint might be an issue in the incident.

The report notes that the containment system “was designed for lead-based paint because it is the most substantial and restrictive,” but that the coatings on the bridge do not actually contain lead. SCDOT says in the report that testing was performed on the bridge in December and February, and both samples tested at less than 0.5 milligrams per liter, about one-tenth of the upper limit allowed under EPA rules.

The Next Steps

SCDOT says in its report that the contractor removed the entire upper truss containment, and is redesigning the system while a root cause analysis is performed. The agency has not indicated how long the investigation may take. No painting has been conducted since before the containment incidents.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Bridges; Containment; Contractors; Surface preparation

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