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LA Orders Cleanup, Capture at Spillway

Friday, February 25, 2011

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The State of Louisiana has ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its painting contractor to clean up the dust and debris being generated by open-air blasting on the Bonnet Carré Spillway—and to use capturing methods for the rest of the project.

A state Department of Environmental Quality inspector visited the project site Thursday (Feb. 24) and found the blasting practices in violation of Louisiana law. Lamplighter Construction LLC, of Baton Rouge, is performing the work under a $634,128 contract with USACE.

“They didn’t appear to know the regulations,” DEQ spokesman Tim Beckstrom said of the Corps’ and contractor’s representatives at the site.

Blasting ‘Straight Up in the Air’

The state’s inspector also reported that the contractor was performing the abrasive blasting “straight up into the air,” which spread the dust. The inspector told the contractor instead to blast downward into the spillway’s bays—after cleaning them out and lining them with tarps or shrouds.

Beckstrom said the state took the violations seriously and would follow up. “We are definitely going out again,” he said. If everything is not corrected, Beckstrom said, the state may issue a Notice of Deficiency.

“They have to capture everything they are stripping,” Beckstrom said. “They have to take reasonable measures to capture all particulates.”


U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The Bonnet Carré Spillway (highlighted in green)
stretches from the Mississippi River (right) northward
to Lake Pontchartrain (left).

USACE project engineer Darren Siddons said later that he thought the state had made a “fair assessment.” He said the additional work “should not hinder the completion of the contract.” Lamplighter did not respond to a request for comment.

Flood Control, Recreation

Lamplighter began work last August on the project, which involves stripping and recoating steel tracks and cross beams atop 152 of the 1.5-mile-long spillway’s 359 20-foot-long bays. The spillway was last painted in the 1970s using a vinyl coating system that contained lead, authorities said. (The new coating system is also vinyl.)

The spillway is used to divert rising flood waters from the Mississippi River into Lake Pontchartrain and then into the Gulf of Mexico, bypassing New Orleans.

Beckstrom said it was fortunate that the 74-year-old spillway was “out in the middle of nowhere” and not near a residential area because of the dust exposures. However, about 400,000 visitors each year use the site for fishing, boating, camping and other recreational activities. In addition, a detention pond near the spillway provides habitats for fish and wildlife.

‘Not That Bad’

The Corps alerted prospective project bidders that traces of lead remained from the old paint, in case they wanted to protect their workers, but Siddons said the levels were “safe for kids playing in the area and wildlife.”

The specs did require the contractor to “ensure that the removal of paint containing lead (PCL) does not constitute a hazard to workers and/or the public.”

In addition, a Corps of Engineers Certified Industrial Hygienist determined that the blast medium did not require containment, because it is made from recycled glass, which contains no silica. The project is using more than 600 tons of New Age Blast Media, made by Novetas Solutions LLC of Philadelphia. The company says the glass is cleaned of waste and contaminants during manufacturing.

Lamplighter’s project manager said the company had performed no cleanup, containment or disposal on the job, because the dust and debris “was really not that bad.”


Lamplighter Construction LLC

A painter from Lamplighter Construction works on one of the
bays along the Bonnet Carré Spillway.

The state inspector found otherwise, however. He reported that “a lot of stuff was accumulating” in the bottom of the bays, according to Beckstrom, so the contractor has also been ordered to clean that up.

“They’re going to clear all that out,” Beckstrom said.

State Law Requirements

Louisiana law requires contractors either to “fully enclose” or “surround” areas being abrasive blasted, or to develop a Best Management Practices plan detailing its plans for managing and disposing of the particulate matter. The law applies to “any material used in abrasive blasting,” unless an exemption has been granted.

DEQ had no record of the spillway project and had granted no exemptions.

Although the dust and debris to be cleaned include paint containing lead, Beckstrom said the state would not require the contractor to treat the waste as hazardous for clean-up and disposal.

After the bays are cleaned, the contractor will choose a method to capture and dispose of the debris, and the state will have to approve it.

“We said, ‘Whoa, you’ve got to take care of this stuff,’” Beckstrom said. “Common sense says you would contain it, or at least make an attempt.”

He added: “A lot of folks are just plain ignorant of the rules.”


Tagged categories: Abrasive blasting; Abrasives; Containment; Contractors; Lead

Comment from Billy Russell, (2/28/2011, 6:21 AM)

I am so glad that DEQ actually had the backbone to tell the Corps to contain and clean up blast media and paint waste. The Corps used theor own industrial hygienist to rule that containment was not needed. That's simply a JOKE. Are they using their own lab and technician to test waste samples also? This entire issue was a joke in regards to the excuse they were trying to sell for not using containment. Maybe someone needs to explain to the Corps why it is important to use QP rated contractors. And in order to ensure they are actually gonna perform according to their certification, the Corps should consider third-party certified inspectors in order to get that target off their back from their less informed employees that are approving what is clearly wrong.("A lot of folks are just plain ignorant of the RULES.") Mr. Beckstrom, I salute you sir....... Good morning, everybody. I love Monday.

Comment from Ray Carpenter, (2/28/2011, 6:42 AM)

Sometimes one man's "Common Sense" is another man's profit. Where did I hear the "ignorance is no excuse for the Law?" They would laugh all the way to the bank if we tried that excuse.

Comment from Billy Russell, (2/28/2011, 6:55 AM)

I just wanted to add one thing. Rigging that with blast screens (90%) 5/16 cable and a cum-along is really not hard to do/ The use of containment does not have to break the bank so to speak if you hire informed and qualified people. The class of containment required should have been in the specifications and not left open for interpretation after award.

Comment from Michael Kontodiakos, (2/28/2011, 8:10 AM)

This is potentially a major factor in why our environment becomes contaminated and people end up falling victim to the pollution from under-qualified contractors. QP Certified Contractors, regulated through the SSPC, must abide by all rules and regulations of the work which is being performed, although the specification must SPECIFY these practices. The Army Corps of Engineers should implement more stringent regulations regarding work to be performed, especially when peoples' lives are at risk. Third-party services, including coatings and environmental inspection, would really tighten up things, facilitating safe work practices all around, with unbiased views!

Comment from Mickey Boyer, (2/28/2011, 9:31 AM)

For those of us that follow the approved guidelines and accepted practices, it is good to hear that they are being enforced now for those that consistently underbid and skirt the rules. Maybe now the playing field will even up just a bit! Nice article to read on Monday.

Comment from Tim Race, (2/28/2011, 10:37 AM)

The New Orleans District did not follow the guidance and recommended practices issued by Head Quarters US Army Corps of Engineers. The guidance is as follows: Containment NOTE: It is the responsibility of the specifier to determine whether containment is required and if so, to specify it. Specify the containment requirements using SSPC Guide 6. Where lead or other hazardous materials are present and abrasive blasting will be performed, specify either Class 1A or Class 2A containment. Where Class 1A containment is specified, instrument verification of negative pressure should be required. Class 1A provides the greatest level environmental protection and should be specified in areas where high levels of lead are present and the work is in the vicinity of critical receptors (parks, schools, residences, or sensitive water sources). Class 2A containment is the most commonly specified level of containment for civil works structures in non-critical areas. Class 3A containment may provide an adequate degree of environmental protection for some lead-containing paint removal jobs, however, an adequate degree of worker protection may not be achievable under some circumstances. Where lead or other hazardous materials are not present but abrasive blasting will be performed, specify Class 2A or 3A containment. Where the Contractor proposes to use a low-dusting recyclable abrasive such as steel grit, then the Contracting Officer should allow one class lower of containment. Classes 3A and 4A containment provide minimal control over emissions. Minimal control of emissions would be used in situations where critical receptors are not near the work site. Containment of dust producing abrasive blasting operations is recommended because of NAAQS for PM-10. Where lead or other hazardous materials are present and power tool cleaning will be performed, specify Class 1P containment. Where the Contractor proposes to use vacuum-shrouded power tools then the Contracting Officer should allow their use with ground covers and/or free hanging tarpaulins. Classes 2P or 3P can be specified where the paint contains low-levels of lead, less than 1 percent. As an option the Contractor should be allowed to use vacuum shrouded power tools without additional protection. Containment is not generally specified for power tool removal of nonhazardous paint materials. Contain debris generated during paint removal operations in accordance with the requirements of SSPC Guide 6, Class [_____]. Where required, verify the containment air pressure [by instrument] [visually].

Comment from Paul Archambo, (2/28/2011, 10:57 AM)

In all the comments on the abrasive blasting side of the project, no one has mentioned the spray painting that surely follows the blasting. Where is the overspray going? Maybe in the water? Has anyone thought, "600 tons of media. Gee whiz, I wonder where that will end up." This is a classic example of the low bidder not following the rules. Does anyone ever look to see why their price is so low!

Comment from Billy Russell, (2/28/2011, 4:32 PM)

Tim, we really appreciate the definition of containment. However, being that your loyalty regarding this entire series of articles has been to the Corps, and you in fact stated that you are the one that "updated" their information, do you think it would help if you let the New Orleans chapter know of the updated version? Sir, this job should have never been approved for open air blasting, period. The Corps needs to start using third-party inspectors and enviormentalist as well as specifiers to put out RFPs because this clearly shows the advice of the ones on their payroll were wrong. Sir, everybody knew it. QP-rated contractors are bound by their certifications to do it right and the right way. Involving an independent third-party inspector ensures that all parties involved are following the rules and specifications! Smile and have a great day, Sir...

Comment from Anthony Kavouris, (3/1/2011, 10:10 AM)

Interesting story and unbelievable chain of events. I would guess by now the contractor in question is going to have a terrific change order claim for furnishing and installing an "engineered" containment system and all that goes along with it, which will be above and beyond what was first specified. Don't you just love this business ... where you can turn a ridiculous error into a huge gain? The best part is that it all could have been avoided if everyone just paid attention, followed the rules, and executed the specification and job in accordance to what is already on the books.

Comment from Billy Russell, (3/2/2011, 7:58 AM)

Anthony, very well said. The Corps and the people involved were lost regarding procedure on this one. Ultimately the taxpayer will have to foot the bill for their ignorant attempt at cutting cost and ignoring the law.

Comment from Car F., (3/2/2011, 10:53 AM)

Great news for all of us responsible contractors and public servants!! Good for the State agency that took this initial step to correct the wrong!!! Low bidding - in my opinion - has always been a licence to perpetrate this kind of abuse, which is detrimental to the industry, the public and the environment. In this case, the REAL culprit is the facility's owners and their poor specification and unethical behaviour. Sadly, this is a far too common practice that is unlikely to stop. A big thank you to PSN for bringing this shenanigan to our attention, and thanks to all readers for their thoughtful and articulate comments.

Comment from Tim Race, (3/2/2011, 11:03 AM)

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. The guide document that the New Orleans District used to write its specification also contains provisions that, had they been implemented, would have made (Billy) smile: QP-1, QP-2, Certified Lead Analysis Laboratory, and Certified Safety Professional. The NOD has the current guidance; they just did not follow it. BTW, I was an early advocate of the SSPC QP program. I traveled to several Corps Districts (circa 1989) along with an SSPC representative trying to get the Districts on board with the concept. It was a tough sell because some Contracting Officers felt that it would unfairly impact small and disadvantaged contractors. It took a long time to overcome those concerns. On the other hand, hiring a QP-certified contractor and an independent 3rd-party inspector is not a guarantee that the job will be done right. A few years ago, I was involved as an independent consultant in a civil and criminal investigation involving (at least in part) certified contractors and independent inspection firms. The quality of work on 90% of the ~150 bridges I inspected did not meet the original contract requirements - many were not even close. At the end of the day, some State employees were fired and lost their pensions. Inspectors and contractors went to jail for bribery. One person fled the country. Civil fines were levied, and out-of-court settlements were made. In spite of this, I still believe that the Corps and other facility owners should specify independent 3rd-party inspectors more often than they do. I also believe that the Corps could produce better painting contract packages if they used a centralized approach rather than a top-down philosophy. As it stands today, top-down guidance is used by specifiers at the Districts to write contracts. I believe that in the highly regulated, safety oriented, and technically demanding field that today's painting has become, that the Corps really needs to centralize the process so that highly qualified individuals write the painting contracts. Oh, there I go being a loyal ex-USACE employee again.....

Comment from Tim Race, (3/2/2011, 11:11 AM)

Tony, I concur with your comments. Sometimes the contractor knows the specification is in error or is open to interpretation and then attempts to benefit from the situation (low bid and change order). I think that most contractors won't low-ball bid on an ambiguous or erroneous specification; it's not worth the headache.

Comment from Billy Russell, (3/3/2011, 8:54 AM)

Tim, very well said (in part). There are Bad apples in every aspect of this industry, 3rd party inspectors included. Accepting a bribe from a contractor should indeed end in jail time. Together if we all strive to find and weed out the unethical individuals that claim to be professional in time we can clean up our industry from one end to the other. Bridge contractors certified by the SSPC in the case you mentioned (90%) is in fact a wake up call to all of us. The need for unannounced inspections by the SSPC on QP specified jobs should be implemented (NOW). I am also calling into question the various individuals issuing those certifications to be more closely audited unannounced, because I too have been on Lead abatement jobs where that contractor clearly (BOUGHT) his certification after watching him sweep potentially hazardous paint chips in the river below and not having one hepa vacuum on the job and that afternoon his entire crew eating lunch inside the containment. I was not very popular shutting him down ... but then again, I do not go to a job to make friends. Unlike the firm that was contracted to inspect that job, I was amazed to find not one of them had any abatement experience. So Tim I do agree you can lead them to water, the rest is up to them. Sir you have a great day. I look forward to the next opportunity to exchange views.

Comment from Brian Brooker, (12/29/2011, 12:12 PM)

Many months after the fact but I had to make this comment in regards to all the statements made previously.Simply put.....why didn't the Corp have a mandated BMP in place for the contractor period! I see that no fine was given for not having a Best Management Plan in place by the owner, how is this possible given that this was the whole reason for the BMP being implemented in Nov. 2007 in the first place.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (10/8/2012, 4:51 PM)

So, did anything ever come of this? Fines? Reprimand for the USACE New Orleans District for not following guide documents? Or just a shrug and ignore it?

Comment from Mary Chollet, (10/8/2012, 5:45 PM)

Tom, this is how the project ended: Thanks.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (10/10/2012, 8:56 AM)

Right - I suppose I should have responded to that one. I just wondered if there were longer-reaching repercussions. I guess it was the "shrug and move on" answer. More lead spread around for the New Orleans area.

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