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Uncontained Blast Medium OK’d for Gulf Coast Project

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approved the use of a recycled-glass blast medium without containment for a coating project along the Gulf Coast.

Bonnet Carré Spillway

The project is using more than 600 tons of the glass media, which contains no silica or toxic chemicals, to remove vinyl coatings from 150 flood-control bays along the 1.5-mile Bonnet Carré Spillway, which protects New Orleans and other downstream communities during floods on the Mississippi River.

The spillway has been used regularly since 1937 to lower river stages at New Orleans by diverting flood waters into Lake Pontchartrain and then into the Gulf of Mexico. The spillway is the southernmost floodway in the Mississippi River and Tributaries (MR&T) system.

Sensitive Coating Project

The Corps is running a maintenance project to recoat the steel beams that carry the cranes across 350 20-foot long bays on the spillway. The project involves removing coatings from and recoating more than a dozen rail beams and cross members in each bay.

The project is environmentally sensitive. The spillway is a popular outdoor recreation area, drawing about 400,000 visitors each year for fishing, crawfishing, hunting, dog training, camping and wildlife watching. The site also includes ATV and motorcycle riding areas, boat launching sites and a campground.

A detention pond adjoins the spillway, providing habitats for fish and wildlife. Water seeps through the spillway bays constantly, even when they are closed, and ends up in and around the pond, said USACE project engineer Darren Siddons.

The Corps thus specified that non-sand blast media had to be safe for open-air blasting or that the contractor would have to use 100% containment on the project.

Corps Reviews

Lamplighter Construction LLC, of Baton Rouge, LA, bid for the job with samples of the recycled-glass media. Lamplighter is an affiliate of Topcor Belco, which specializes in lining of tanks, vessels, piping systems and components in the Gulf Coast chemical industry.

Lamplighter Construction

The product was new to the Corps and required additional levels of review before the contract was approved, Siddons said. A Certified Industrial Hygienist and safety panel, among others, conducted reviews and gave approval, he said.

“It made total sense, because glass is made out of sand,” said Siddons. “We just put into our safety requirements and safety manual that you could not use silica sand on the site. It would have to be contained.”

Refining the Mix

The project began in August 2010. Lamplighter Construction project manager Robbie Hunter said he had never used the media before, but his boss had suggested it.

It took a week or two to fine-tune the coarseness of the mix for coatings removal, Hunter said. He initially used the Extra Coarse formulation, which was giving him a 5.5-mil profile—more aggressive than he needed. So he scaled back to the Medium, which provided a 3 to 3.5-mil profile, he said.

“We didn’t have to build any kind of scaffold, or contain anything, or dispose of anything,” Hunter said. “We had no cleanup whatsoever.”

Siddons, who inspects the site regularly, said the material had worked well.

The spillway has 350 bays, and Hunter’s team is nearly finished with prepping and coating 150 of them. During the summer, the company hopes to complete the rest of the project.

Other Applications

The product, New Age Blast Media, is manufactured by Novetas Solutions LLC, of Philadelphia.

The manufacturer says the product has previously been used in a variety of bridge and ship blasting and cleaning projects.

New Age is made from non-toxic, chemically inert, recycled bottle glass and is thus safe for use near and around water, the manufacturer says. Contaminants and waste by-products are stripped from the glass during processing, according to Novetas.

The media has a hardness of 6.0 on the Mohs Scale and is suitable for surface profiling and removal of epoxy, paint, alkyds, vinyl, polyurea, coal tar and elastomerics and other coatings, the company says.

The Naval Environmental Health Center has also signed off on the product, which appears on the Navy’s Qualified Products list.

According to NEHC, the most common hazards in working with the medium are skin irritation and high-velocity body injuries.


Tagged categories: Abrasive blasting; Contractors; Epoxy; Novetas Solutions LLC; Paint and coatings removal; Surface preparation

Comment from B. BRYCE, (2/17/2011, 3:28 AM)

I wonder what happened to the remains of the old paint system in the blast residue. Was it considered diluted enough that it did not constitute a contaminant?

Comment from Jimi Olson, (2/17/2011, 8:24 AM)

I have the exact same question as Mr. Bryce. If anyone knows the answer, please post what they know.

Comment from Richard McLaughlin, (2/17/2011, 9:43 AM)

Oh, come on now, everyone knows the Corps is never wrong in their practices and policies. Just because if anyone else was doing this project, they would have to put up containment, collect the spent abrasives, paint fines, rust, bird poo, and whatever else is on that structure... This is a case of "do as I say, not as I do." (Just a little sarcasm in there.)

Comment from Kevin Schweikhart, (2/17/2011, 10:24 AM)

I am equally perplexed as the other readers regarding the paint waste... Seems like smoke and mirrors... Silica isn't toxic to environment anyway; it's toxic to the human respiratory system when pulverized.

Comment from Kevin Schweikhart, (2/17/2011, 10:26 AM)

.... sorry for the "typo"... I meant "AS" the other readers

Comment from Mark Clabaugh, (2/17/2011, 10:31 AM)

I may sound naive, but how in the world was this allowed? More information would be welcomed.

Comment from Car F., (2/17/2011, 10:53 AM)

I agree with the previous comments. What is happening with the coating being removed from the steel? Are we to assume that there is no lead in that paint? Please follow up on the story.

Comment from Vic Pallotta, (2/17/2011, 11:03 AM)

An entire section of this article (Sensitive Coating Project) is used to describe how sensitive the area surrounding the project is. However no mention is made as to the dispersal of the old coating (vinyl) and the other waste from the structure into the surrounding waterways and land. ???

Comment from Kurt W, (2/17/2011, 1:41 PM)

Not only is there a possibility of contamination with the vinyl paint, but when you blast with the recycled glass you pulverize it, releasing silica dust. To say that there is no silica in glass is insane, the story even states that it makes sense because glass is made from sand! Even if there was no reason to remove contaminates because of environmental concerns, what about the 600 tons of aggregate that will now become sediment in the ponds and canal? Sounds like total incompetence to me.

Comment from paul mellon, (2/17/2011, 2:36 PM)

Clarification point to comment from Kurt W. New Age Blast Media is made from 100% recycled glass. It does not contain crystalline silica; the silica is amorphous. Amorphous silica is not a carcinogen. There are also no heavy metals and toxins in glass. I believe the clearly article points out that New Age Blast Media is certified by the US Navy on the QPL. As everyone in the surface prep industry should know, the Navy does not authorize products containing crystalline silica on their QPL.

Comment from Russ Raine, (2/17/2011, 4:25 PM)

What about the effect of broken glass particles (shards) on things like fish gills? I believe this is a known problem with some of the sharper slags, which are essentially glassy residue eg Cu slag.

Comment from James Jeanes, (2/17/2011, 4:31 PM)

The problem with silica sand is not that it is a carcinogen, but that it is inhaled and causes inflamation and scarring in the lungs.

Comment from Joseph Griesbaum, (2/17/2011, 8:53 PM)

New Age Blast Media was used to media blast a bridge in Philadelphia with non-containment. The city government, state EPA and local environmental groups all determined that the blast residue was indeed considered diluted enough, once it was introduced to the water way below the bridge, that it did not constitute a contaminant, on a PPM basis, that it did not compose an enviromental or health risk. Clearly as this article states, the Naval Environmental Health Center, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a "Certified Industrial Hygienist and safety panel, among others" gave their consent. One would assume, in today's evironmentally conscious world, particularly the City of New Orleans and the State of LA would have a vested interest in keeping their waterways as clean as possible.

Comment from Tim Race, (2/17/2011, 10:29 PM)

OK, guys, the article is a bit sketchy and the Corps is a big, wide, slow target these days. However, this is a concrete spillway, and the work is being performed while the structure is dewatered. It seems obvious to me that the blast debris is collecting in the spillway, where it is cleaned up and then disposed. What the Corps did not want was the airborne dispersal of crystalline silica beyond the work site that could potentially impact users of the adjacent recreational lands. The contractor could just as easily have used coal slag or steel grit and accomplished the same thing. As to lead content in the Corps formulation vinyl paint -- there is none.

Comment from Billy Russell, (2/18/2011, 8:26 AM)

Tim, I believe you are assuming a lot in your response. I strongly feel that if open-air blasting over and or near water is prohibited everywhere I go to inspect various jobs, this industrial hygienist or panel need their certifications yanked for misrepresentation. We do not know what was on the steel (contaminates) prior to the initial coating. That being said, containment would have been required on any other job; they were going with the cheaper way. The original specs called for containment (I'll bet money). The Corps is wrong. This job should not have been done without the use of containment. The airborne residue from blasting with glass is just as bad as silica. This job would never have gotten approved in most other states.

Comment from Tim Race, (2/18/2011, 11:01 AM)

Billy - the point that I was making is that I don't believe the project is being done over or directly adjacent to water. The Clean Water Act is clear, and the Corps is fully aware, that it is a violation to cause the deposition of solids into or onto the waters of the nation. Having worked as a paint chemist for the Army Corps for 17 years (until 1998), I feel that I am well informed as to its practices and policies. The worker pictured on the manlift is working from the Mississippi River side of the structure. The river is below flood stage, and the concrete sill on the river side of the structure is the work platform that the manlift sits on. With the river not at floodstage, the waters of the Mississippi are 100 to 150 feet away. The ponds mentioned in the article are several hundred feet away from where the work is being performed. Lake Ponchartrain is several miles away. The concrete spillway apron on the land-side of the structure is about 100 feet wide. Beyond that there is a several hundred feet wide concrete revetment matress. The steel superstructure is only about 30 feet high. There is little if any chance that blasting debris will land in the water. If the work were to be performed with an elevated Mississippi River, the water could be directly adjacent to the work, and deposition onto the river could occur in violation of the CWA. If that is the case, then everyone's concerns are well founded.

Comment from Mary Chollet, (2/18/2011, 1:47 PM)

Editor's Note: PaintSquare News is following up on this article and will provide more information as soon as it becomes available. We hope to have another report within several days. Thank you for your interest and for reading.

Comment from Brian Churray, (2/18/2011, 5:10 PM)

From the specs, via Paint BidTracker, the existing coatings contain 4,260 ppm lead, which the Corps considers lead-containing, not lead-based. PaintSquare News will follow up with more.

Comment from David Grove, (2/19/2011, 1:09 PM)

I agree with Tim Race's and Paul Mellon's comments. Tim is a very smart fellow, so I would take merit in what he says. We are using the recycled glass at the Hanford Vit Plant, and it was blessed by Washington State's Dept. of Ecology and they are a very conservative group. The crews use respiratory protection because they are blasting concrete and like most abrasives, it does create dust, and lots of it. The concrete contains silica, but we have had not had any testing results that identified any problems with the abrasive. We are a pretty big and long-term project and have had lots of reviews.

Comment from Billy Russell, (2/21/2011, 7:36 AM)

Tim, I am not doubting that as a chemist for the Corps for 17 years, you aware of their practices. The point is simply this: Overspray can travel up to (5) miles. I have not tested glass particles in an open wind, simply because Texas got smart a long time ago and banned open-air blasting for the (OBVIOUS) reason. I do appreciate your loyalty to the Corps. My loyalty is to the environment and to good painting practices. No open-air blasting on any job should be allowed. Now I have a question for you very (smart) guys: What happens to the glass when it comes into contact with the steel? Maybe it pulverises it into very fine particulates that are now airborne, and how many kids are fishing a few miles away? I have not been a chemist for the Corps for 17 years. but I have been a blasting and coatings contractor and inspector for 20 years. If you can contain it, do it. It makes us all more professional. Open-air blasting jobs were what the fly-by-night gypsies were doing in the '70s. There are variables we do not know on this job. My loyalty is to help move this industry into the future and get away from the practices of the past that made us all look bad. Open-air blasting should be contained. It is an engineering control put in place that works.

Comment from Billy Russell, (2/21/2011, 8:06 AM)

4,260 PPM (right under 5PPM): Wow, we've never seen that before, have we guys? These are some of the reasons containment should have been used, period. We can open the "lead-containing but not lead-based" can of worms on this job, so that sample that was tested came back just under the legal limit. How many "random" samples are being taken and by who(contractor or the Corps)? This job is wrong for the obvious reason, gentlemen.

Comment from Billy Russell, (2/22/2011, 9:01 AM)

Do you guys believe the response from the contractor rep in this new article about DEQ looking into this? I was not surprised. The Corps didn't notify DEQ. Tim, since you are aware of their practices, is this SOP for the Corps? Boys, you got mud on your faces on this one. Glass & vinyl do not make it ok to open-air blast nothing in this industry. Now all you smart guys go to time-out. I will let you know when you can come out and play with the big boys.

Comment from Michael Beitzel, (2/22/2011, 9:52 AM)

I would be interested in learning about the TCLP test results on the waste generated and the lead exposure assessments results required by the OSHA lead regulations to protect the workers, both of which should have been done to allow this material to be uncollected and the work performed uncontained.

Comment from WULF WARD, (2/22/2011, 9:53 AM)

It's tough enough to comply with the lead paint thresholds and all the red tape that goes along with public work. Samples were under the 5,000 ppm threshold, and I am sure the debris was under the 50,000 ppm threshold. Waste glass is still a crystal, and it will pulverize on impact. There are much worse contaminants in the water than glass dust. By the way, the matter contained in the universe is mostly silica or glass. With so much work that needs to be done to the infrastructure in the USA, we need to find a way for the least expensive compromise to get this work done. Compromises of this sort should only be employed to get the most out of the available funds and not to add to an additional profit. I have done sandblasting since 1957 and have witnessed the ever-costlier changes made to compliance. It also has been a compromise within 90%. Those extra 10% can very add 90% to the job cost. Most jobs are not negotiated and are based on the bottom line. Most jobs are over-specified, and adding extra hurtles will price many jobs out of do-ability.

Comment from Pieter van Riet, (2/23/2011, 4:23 AM)

I agree with Tim's stance that some sense and sensibility is needed where this particular project’s risks are clearly different from the type of work that gets up Billy's goat. I assume he don’t allow his kids to play on the beach without wearing respirators?

Comment from Billy Russell, (2/23/2011, 5:54 AM)

Pieter, spoken from a true pencil pusher's point of view. I hold the certifications (LEAD) and have the qualifications to be able to intelligently know that this job was absolutely required to have containment from the very first article posted before DEQ ever got involved. The Corps is wrong and so are the people that signed off on letting this job proceed. As far as the type of work that gets my goat, I do third-party inspection of bridges over water and elevated water storage tanks with (FULL) containment in use at all times. If our containment leaks for (5) continuous minutes, the job is shut down and the leak repaired. Now, for your information, sir, lead is not the only thing DEQ is going to test for and find regarding this job. Stay tuned for the rest of that story. What gets my goat is when pencil pushers like yourself know very little about the actual going on of a real industrial paint job and post non-constructive comments. Leave these posts to the Big Boys so we can trade information and knowledge in order to expand our industry. Sense and sensibility where this particular project means nothing in the real world. Stay in the office, Pieter, leave the field to the Big Boys.

Comment from Michael Beitzel, (2/23/2011, 11:07 AM)

Wulf, where are these thresholds pulled from? They do not exist. There is absolutely no threshold established by the federal government for the lead concentration in the dry paint film. OSHA decided in the preamble to the OSHA Lead Standard that there was no correlation between the concentration of the lead in the paint and the ultimate exposure one would receive during a work task. Therefore, OSHA's lead standard is based on the work activity (three trigger task classifications based on presumed exposures where the contractor must provided interim controls). The following is a direct quote from the OSHA Lead in Construction Compliance Directive CPL 02-02-058: For all occupational exposure to lead occurring in the course of construction work, the standard does not specify a minimum amount or concentration of lead that triggers a determination that lead is present and the potential for occupational exposure exists. However, if the employer has appropriately tested all potential sources of lead (e.g., tested all layers of paints and coatings that may be disturbed) utilizing a valid detection method for the presence of lead and found no detectable levels of lead, the standard does not apply. Moreover, spent abrasive blasting material, even if it is non-hazardous, is considered an industrial solid waste and cannot be left on site without written approval from the LDEQ.

Comment from David Grove, (2/24/2011, 10:35 AM)

Michael, where does it say "Moreover, spent abrasive blasting material, even if it is non-hazardous, is considered an industrial solid waste and cannot be left on site without written approval from the LDEQ." I didn't read this, nor do I remember it in any of these codes, standards or directives where it applied to lead. I deal with coating the largest and longest nuclear construction project in the United States. My project is reviewed and audited more than almost any other, because so many people that review us make assumptions about the criteria. I can understand, because there is so much to remember and comply to. My brain leaks, too. This subject is obviously a complex one and a very emotional one. Since there is now an investigation. I suggest that we wait to hear the "rest of the story." PaintSquare News, please keep us informed as we are all on the edge of our seats to know more.

Comment from Billy Russell, (2/25/2011, 6:09 AM)

David, very well said!!!!!!!!

Comment from Kevin Guth, (2/25/2011, 10:26 AM)

Michael, you are correct. I am a Louisiana-based environmental consultant that has worked on hundreds of abrasive blasting jobs, both lead and non-lead, over the past twenty years. Spent blasting abrasive is not allowed to be left on a job site like the one described in the article without permission from the LDEQ. The generator would have to provide evidence to the LDEQ that the material in question was not going to cause an adverse environmental impact. The standard that Michael is referencing is not a lead standard but rather Louisiana Administrative Code Title 33 Environmental Monitoring Part VII Solid Waste.

Comment from Michael Beitzel, (2/25/2011, 10:34 AM)

Also in the following Louisiana Administrative Code (LAC), Air Regulations Chapter 13 Subchapter F, addresses emissions from abrasive blasting. “The purpose of this Subchapter is to reduce particulate matter emissions from facilities that engage in abrasive blasting,” the code says. The regulations apply to “any material used in abrasive blasting,” although exemptions may be granted “as approved by the department on a case-by-case basis.” The code requires facilities to either “fully enclose the item, or surround the structure, to be blasted” or to “prepare and implement a best management practices (BMP) plan as described in LAC 33:III.1331.” The code details the BMP Plan at length. Among many requirements, the plan must include: • A description of any nearby waters of the state that may be affected, their distances and directions from the facility, and how emissions to those waters will be prevented or minimized; • A statement of the facility's procedures for preventing nuisances and/or adverse off-site impacts, including a description of any emission control equipment; • Provisions for personnel training; and • Detailed records of how spent material is handled, recycled, reused, or disposed of.

Comment from remko tas, (2/28/2011, 9:21 AM)

It is interesting to read what is waiting for us in Bolivia where as up to now not a single blasting job has been contained, the use of sand is standard procedure as well as legal, and my closed blasting facility where steelgrit is used is still the only one and undercontracted because of higher prices. Being a sparcely populated country, the saying "the solution of pollution is dilution" springs to my mind.

Comment from Brian Brooker, (12/29/2011, 11:50 AM)

Touche, only this could happen in Louisiana. I have spent the past 31 years on the contractor side, inspection & consulting end of the blasting & painting business. This is as usual another case of surface prep & coatings application being done in Louisiana without following the mandated guidelines as usual. Was this some new age type of vinyl coating that was being removed to have this low of lead content per ppm's. I was involved in removing vinyl coatings from numerous structures in the Gulf of Mexico during the 1980's & 1990's where the lead content was above the acceptable ppm's before any regulations where implemented in the Gulf of Mexico. The BMP plan that came out in Novemeber of 2007 for everyone to follow is still full of loop holes. I know this for a fact since it's still a plan that's only followed per the direction of each facility owners directions especially in the GOM. I have as stated been in the industrial blasting & coatings business the past 31 years on the contractor end, coatings inspection end and as the owners onsite representative rather it be as their project manager or consultant all over the US and overseas. Louisiana is the only place out of all these areas I have been (and where most of my time has been spent in 31 years) where the rules & regulations mandated for surface prep & coatings is still overlooked on most projects. Why is it that other projects (being done right now without mentioning any names) on the spillways & locks over the water are still using abrasives that required full containment, not to mention that this one particular project going on now has cost the contractor a million dollars over his bid estimate to date. Some things just don't add up but that's LOUISIANA!

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