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Paint Waste to Land Shipyard on Superfund List

Thursday, March 10, 2011

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Open piles of paint and blasting grit, a burn pit of toxic solvents, and river contaminants more than 500 times the acceptable level have made an Oregon shipyard a candidate for the federal Superfund list of the nation’s most contaminated sites.



Astoria, OR, is located in the Columbia River basin.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed adding Astoria Marine Construction Co., in Astoria, OR, to the EPA’s National Priorities List. The action follows years of efforts by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to get the company to clean up the site voluntarily, EPA said.

The proposal was published Thursday (March 10) in the Federal Register as National Priorities List Proposed Rule No. 54. 

Astoria Marine occupies about eight acres of low-lying land along the east bank of the Lewis and Clark River at its confluence with Jeffers Slough.

The shipyard, in active operation since 1924, constructed wooden boats and ships, except for brief periods during World War II and the Korean War, when it built minesweepers, tugs and other military vessels. Currently, the company manufactures and repairs small marine vessels.

Site Contamination

Site contaminants include petroleum, heavy metals, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, and organotins, according to EPA.

“Contaminants have been detected within upland sources, ground water beneath the site, and within the Lewis and Clark River and Jeffers Slough sediments,” according to EPA documents.

“Concentrations of these contaminates exceed multiple screening levels, particularly within the sediments, where concentrations have been detected as high as 550 times applicable screening levels.”

The sources of the contamination include a 1,900-square-foot burn area; two grit piles estimated at 1,500 and 300 square feet; and about 400 total square feet of soil contaminated by petroleum, according to EPA.

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Open Grit Piles

According to EPA documents, Astoria Marine used copper-based paints containing Tributyltin until 1989, when it became illegal to use paints containing the compound, except in small quantities.

Until about 1997, operations at the shipyard included sandblasting old paint off ships and boats. The paint typically contained the copper compound cupric oxide, lead and Tributyltin, according to EPA. Astoria Marine stored spent sandblast grit, which contained paint chip residue, in two piles next to its building. The piles were neither lined nor covered.

By the end of June 1997, the company had removed the waste grit piles and disposed of them at a landfill—a $20,000 job, the shipyard owner says. But grit remained beneath the pile site and at several areas in the middle of the property.

Solvent Burn Pit

In addition, EPA reports, the company had a burn area (also called a burn pit) on the northwest corner of the property where it burned excess solvents and waste petroleum. The company has also burned waste paint thinner at the site since at least 1997, according to EPA.

During a 2007 federal inspection, the property owner “indicated that AMCCO was still in the practice of applying solvents to this area to help start fires.” The burn area is about 50 feet in diameter and within 40 feet of the Lewis and Clark River, according to EPA.

Paint Removal

The shipyard also used grinding overwater, among other methods, to remove paint from boats over Jeffers Slough. Those paints were likely to have contained Tributyltin, cupric oxide and lead, EPA said.

In a 1996 state inspection, Astoria Marine’s owner told authorities that the shipyard used to sandblast over the rivers because larger ships did not fit in the building. He said that the practice ended in the 1950s.

In 1997, however, the owner filed a letter with authorities, saying that the earlier statement about grit dumped into the rivers was not true.

‘No Two-Headed Eagles’

Shipyard owner Don Fastabend, who has worked for the company since 1950, denied in an interview that the site posed an environmental threat.

“There’s geese and otters and all kinds of animals around here,” Fastabend said. “There’s no two-headed eagles or three-legged rats.”

Fastabend said the case began in 1996 with an anonymous letter to Oregon’s DEQ complaining about “oil slicks and saying we were bad people.” He said he had complied with authorities’ requests to clean the site over the years and does not know what he is expected to do now.

He said inspectors had found “the same stuff you’ll find in any goldarn yard along the coast that’s more than five years old.”

“They want to put me out of business,” he said.

The once-thriving shipyard had a workforce of 1,100 at its peak; today, it has 12 employees, and Fastabend says his profit margin is less than 2%.

“I’ll have to see what it’s going to cost” to clean up the site, he said. “And if it’s prohibitive, I’m going to have to walk away. I’m fed up and pretty overwhelmed.”

Environmental Setting

The site is located within the Columbia River Basin, which has been designated a national priority as one of the “Nation’s great water bodies.” Cleanup of the site would support the Columbia River Toxics Reduction Action Plan, published in September 2010.

Three species of federally listed endangered or threatened fish live in the Columbia, Lewis and Clark, and Youngs Rivers, and the Lewis and Clark and Columbia have been designated as critical habitat and migratory pathways for maintenance of a number of fish species. All three rivers are also used as sport and commercial fisheries.

National Priorities List

The State of Oregon referred the site to EPA for the NPL, contending that DEQ had been unable to get the company to enter the Voluntary Cleanup Program. If the shipyard is added to the National Priorities List, EPA will work with tribes and local, state and federal government agencies to clean up the site under the Superfund program.

“I asked them who was going to pay for it, and they said I was,” said Fastabend.

The Superfund listing “will provide a clear framework for EPA to work with the company to identify and complete necessary cleanup actions in coordination with its ongoing operations,” said Dan Opalski, EPA Region 10 Superfund Director in Seattle.

“A full evaluation and cleanup of contamination at the Astoria Marine facility can be part of a healthier future for the Columbia River Basin."

Public comments on the proposal will be accepted for 60 days.


Tagged categories: Abrasive blasting; Cleanup; Environmental Protection; EPA; Health and safety; Marine Coatings; Paint disposal

Comment from Billy Russell, (3/11/2011, 4:15 AM)

"wow." absolutely unbelievable..........

Comment from shane hirvi, (3/11/2011, 1:23 PM)

why do you find this "absolutely unbelievable?"

Comment from paul mellon, (3/14/2011, 5:43 PM)

Interesting that the article chooses to purposely not state what is the type of blasting grit when it appears obvious that the blasting grit itself contains heavy metals. How do we know if some of the blasting grit was not yet used and still tested for heavy metals. Is it coal slag, copper slag, sand??? Maybe Paintsquare can enlighten us on this issue. We certainly know its not crushed glass because that would not be an environmental hazard if it was unused.

Comment from Mary Chollet, (3/15/2011, 7:42 AM)

The type of blasting grit used at Astoria Marine was not available from EPA and was not included in the documentation on this case.

Comment from Richard McLaughlin, (3/16/2011, 9:58 AM)

Paul Mellon, please quit using the forum to advertise your products without at the very least identifying yourself as coming from Novetas/New Age crushed glass. Your product is NOT the perfect material for all blasting jobs; it lacks characteristics for quite a few applications, but that’s for another discussion. As for heavy metals in other blast materials, yes, you are right that metal slags are very susceptible to higher content just by the nature of how they are created. But the process is completely different than the one that creates coal slag, so don’t keep lumping them together. I, too, would like to know what the abrasive was, but if for no other reason than to add to my database. FYI, for the sake of full disclosure for anyone reading this thread, I am currently employed as a technical consultant for Marco, the blast equipment manufacturer, but I come from being in the surface prep industry for 35+ years of field work.

Comment from David Dorrow, (3/16/2011, 11:51 AM)

I have been actively involved in the abrasive industry for over thirty years in abrasive sales and the technical evaluations of potential materials for use as an abrasive product. I believe that the comments focused on what type of abrasive was involved at the shipyard are unjustly focusing on the "abrasive" as being part of the problem. From my reading of the article, it appears that the problem is most likely the improper management/disposal of the waste abrasive that contains paint chips, oil, grease and other shipyard materials improperly placed in a waste pile. Any type of abrasive used (sand, slag, glass, garnet) would fall into the same predicament if mismanaged like this. While some in the industry target "slag" abrasives by claiming they have a heavy metal problem, these slag abrasives are virtually non-leachable and pass the TCLP test as non-hazardous. Keep the focus where it needs to be -- on proper management of wastes generated at the shipyard -- and not infer it is a problem with the abrasive.

Comment from Billy Russell, (3/17/2011, 12:02 AM)

Shane, the reason I made that comment was because I am amazed that this shipyard has gone this long without being inspected and told to clean up the huge mess that has been allowed to accumulate for such a long time, and also that the owner is going to walk away and turn his mess over to the taxpayers to clean up after he made all the money from the jobs that were done...... Paul Mellon, I also agree with Richard: Your product also has its flaws from my personal experience opening the plastic bags you guys are using becomes soaking wet from condensation even when stored inside. Out of 5 pallets we got 4 bags that we could use that day, and also your product is too soft to remove heavy rustscale. It was ridiculous how long that stuff took to clean it right; it's ok if you only have to remove loose paint!!!!!!!!!! Also very well said, David, you are exactly right on the money Sir!!!!!!!

Comment from paul mellon, (3/17/2011, 6:34 PM)

Heading back from NACE and stuck at airport, so I finally had a chance to read some of the above comments directed at myself and New Age Blast Media. Thanks for the feedback! For the record I am indeed President of Novetas Solutions and we sell New Age Blast Media made from 100% recycled glass: Here are my responses: Richard McLaughlin: I respect that you have been in the industry for 35 years and we count Marco as one of our great customers. I am not really sure what the point of your comments were in regards to my statements. I never implied crushed glass is the “perfect” blast media. I am sorry that you appear unable to cope with the fact that the EPA,OSHA and NIOSH have all repeatedly confirmed the presence of heavy metals and toxic compounds in virgin coal, copper and nickel slags. In fact, the coal industry itself submitted a document in writing to the EPA admitting that copper and nickel slags have heavy metals! The science is overwhelming and the EPA via the looming CCR regulations is now finally confronting their own facts on the dangers of the slags to human health and the environment. Please visit our website if you are interested in reading for yourself exactly what the Govt knows about slags… and glass!

Comment from paul mellon, (3/17/2011, 6:39 PM)

David Dorrow on the abrasive/ TCLP. Dave, I was only trying find out if the there was virgin blast media that was tested by EPA and had toxic compounds. We still do not know the answer and it is a glaring omission given the number of time blasting grit is mentioned. As the Paintsquare article showed, the EPA had an issue with the blasting grit which was NOT land filled but lying all over the ground. It makes no sense to not identify the grit which comprises over 90-95% typically of the actual waste from blasting. The new CCR proposal by the EPA last June clearly and repeatedly targets the TCLP has having significant flaws. The TCLP increasingly appears as an outdated and flawed test that only measures leaching in a landfill. Clearly the EPA is now reconsidering the TCLP which is not appropriate for measuring toxic compounds found in CCRs that are used on the land and surface water. One overt issue, the TCLP does not even measure for Beryllium which is commonly found in coal slag.

Comment from paul mellon, (3/17/2011, 6:45 PM)

Sir Billy Russell…Well Sir, not even clear where to begin since you apparently don’t know very much about either coal slag or crushed glass. Many of your past comments claimed glass has free-silica which of coarse is wrong and was corrected by others. Regarding New Age Blast Media and being “too soft” to remove rust scale is pretty funny and I am sure coal slag users loved it. Again its just not true. I could list dozens of projects in which crushed glass, not just New Age Blast Media, has performed exactly as coal slag. But that would appear that I am “advertising”. By the way Billy when you take that drive over to the Bonne Carrie Spillway to do your inspection. Make sure you ask the Army Corps why they specifically said that coal slag could NOT FALL ON THE GROUND because of the toxins in the product. The Army Corps did NOT find those toxins in New Age Blast Media. Enjoy your day. PS Sorry about your issues with our product, we do recommend storage in a dry area we also sell paper bags which are better in humid area.

Comment from Billy Russell, (3/18/2011, 6:31 AM)

Paul (sir) you stand corrected. NEVER in my past statements have I stated that your product contained free-silica. I in fact said, sir, what happens to your product when it comes into contact with a steel substrate I believe it pulverizes it and now you have glass particulates in the air. Also stated that I have not personally tested how those particulates travel in the wind. SIR no product is suitable for open air blasting of a steel substrate with (LEAD) involved. Your product does not make open air blasting ok as you found out by the DEQ in the last 3 days of the project. Notice you were not on here bragging when the project first started "no need for containment cause we are using glass" is cheap and unethical. ..... Now sir,I personally picked up the blast hose and tried to clean steel with your product in the blast pot after (8) different experienced blasters came out of the (FULL CONTAINMENT) mad because you product was slowing them down when it came to RUST SCALE some not even heavy. I am not one for debating something unless I have done it myself, so I personally held the hose and your product is good at removing loose Paint. The people I work with across this great country are experienced professional blasters and painters there (RIGHT). I saw for myself your product was too soft on scale period, sir. Get off the laptop and grab a blast hose on a real job. The lab don't count. The Bonnie Carrie spillway is a sad example to use. That job should have been shut down for lack of professional decision making so save it sir.

Comment from Billy Russell, (3/18/2011, 6:41 AM)

Paul you might let your sale staff Know about the paper bags instead of sending Plastic to a job they get soaked in a humid environment and was stored inside,it is called looking out for your customer and your company might not have lost that contractor who lost 5 pallets because salesman didn't care to advise him about how wet your product gets in that white plastic bag you ship it in,Never saw Black Beauty shipped in that white plastic guess those guys new what goes in a pot has to be DRY or you got one big headache,SIR have a good day and remember to always smile.........

Comment from Billy Russell, (3/18/2011, 6:44 AM)

Paul,one more thing,you are correct I do not know about the molecular structure of glass and coal slag simply because I am not a pencil pusher I came up on the tools and earned the respect I have in this industry not in a book but in the field....

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (3/18/2011, 9:59 AM)

Paul, believing that the TCLP actually measures anything is a misconception - likely fed by the shorthand used commonly in the industry "perform a TCLP for lead..." or "TCLP and RCRA-8." The TCLP is just a sample preparation method. It is a leaching procedure to extract materials out of the sample. After that, the lab will generally perform something like AA or ICP-MS to look for specific metals. Commonly the paint industry will look for lead, or the RCRA-8 metals list (Lead, Cadmium, Chromium, Silver, Barium, Arsenic, Selenium and Mercury.) You can perform a TCLP and then test for an incredible number of different metals, including Beryllium. You just need to find a lab which is set up (or can set up) to do the test. For example, for AA you need to buy the correct lamp for each element you will evaluate and a calibration standard. I checked one of the common instrument suppliers and found lamps for a surprising number of elements. Beryllium was hardly the most obscure available for sale online as a standard bulb (I might go with Dysprosium or Thulium for the "most obscure available" title.) I have not priced bulbs and calibration standards in awhile, but it was generally a few hundred dollars for a new element on an existing AA.

Comment from Billy Russell, (3/19/2011, 11:30 PM)

PAUL, how many tons of your product was used on the Bonne Carrie spillway? If I am not mistaken, did the article say 600 tons? Does anyone know how many Square Feet of steel was to be blasted? I am sure Paul has these numbers on his laptop and, yes, you guys that actually do work on real jobs know exactly where I am going. I am going to explain to Mr Paul exactly what I really do know about glass versus Black beauty as in sq feet per man hour, production cost (IE) material and labor .... the actual numbers on a job. Paul, noticed you have been kind of quiet, hmmm like we say in the south I smell craw fish Boys. Tom very well said, sir, and you are correct: I have seen so many contractors fool the TCLP and send it to a select few labs to come just under the 5.0 ......

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (3/22/2011, 8:45 AM)

Paul, exactly what "EPA Drinking Water" test are you talking about? Please provide a method number and/or a link to the appropriate EPA source. EPA has lots of tests for drinking water, generally they are direct analysis of the liquid water, there is NO digestion/extraction. Please also provide a link to the Army Corps of Engineers testing data as well. Again TCLP is an extraction method. Of course it is useless for measuring toxin levels - it is not a measurement method. It just describes how you extract (leach) the sample. Once you have performed the TCLP extraction, you can test (measure) for just about anything you want on the extracted liquid (leachate.)

Comment from paul mellon, (3/22/2011, 1:02 PM)

Tom, website you can visit from the EPA is listed below. This is the link to what the EPA states are their guidelines for Drinking Water in the US. I appreciate your efforts to help better understand the TCLP test. The issue that the EPA as well as Novetas has raised with the TCLP is that the detection threshold for metals is way too high given how workers and the environment are exposed to the unencapsulated dust in slags. For example the Maximum Contaminant Level ( MCL ) allowed for Arsenic is .01 mg/L under the EPA Drinking Water Standard. The TCLP level of detection is 5.0 mg/L or 500 times HIGHER than the Drinking Water Standard. Obviously you can see that slags would never pass many of the EPA Drinking Water detection thresholds. I have already presented these facts to the EPA last October during the public CCR Hearings. In regards to the Army Corps I would you suggest that you contact the Corps directly as I do not have the physical test results.

Comment from shane hirvi, (3/22/2011, 5:10 PM)

Why do I get the feeling that I want to buy a goldish-brown 1973 AMC Hornet? Mr. Mellon, I am just a casual passerby with only a little more than 10 years experience in the industrial side of this business--and though your crusade against slag abrasive seems warranted and just, you don't strike me as the unbiased crusader of glass that you appear to be. I certainly wouldn't want to get in the way of you making a buck, but it appears that smearing slag abrasives seems to be your primary motivation on this board. Your business model is as old as commerce itself--and I do not begrudge you for its use. After reading some of your posts, however, one could understand you to mean that any time slag abrasives are used that EPA should get involved to shut the project down and set up a superfund site. Do you want to shut down all slag abrasive operations in the United States, Mr. Mellon? Do you believe that EPA needs to be at every job-site where slag abrasives are used because of this potentially vast health risk of which you speak? Should every jobsite where slag abrasives have been used, since their creation, be shuttered and evaluated for health risks associated with slag abrasives? What is it you are trying to say? We all know that glass is a wonderful abrasive but like every other abrasive out there isn't going to reduce our need for foreign oil or stop global hunger. Billy Russell--I have used coal and copper slags in little paper bags, delivered in bulk with a hopper truck and in the big bulk plastic bags, as well as glass, garnet and silica in the big bulk plastic bags all over the country and internationally and havent had much of a problem with any of the abrasive because the bulk plastic bags. If you didnt track the abrasive from the time it was bagged from the time it arrived in your blast pot you really shouldnt have an opinion about how it got wet. I've used glass a few times and it seems to work just as well as any generic slag abrasive out there-you just need to pick the right size and blend coupled with good nozzel orifice size, adequate air supply, having the appropriate grit flow etc... With the right blend of abrasive whether it be glass, slag, mineral or metallic it is going to cut the crap out of paint, mill scale, rust, pack rust, rust scale, flash rust whatever. A nice blend with big chunks to smash and fracture the paint and mill scale along with smaller abrasive to scour and clean the rust makes the blasting world go round--with enough air, grit and nozzel size that is. If you have been on the end of a blast hose for any length of time you should know this. If your blend isn't appropriate for the project you are involved in, don't blame the person who ordered the abrasive and not the abrasive itself. And for the love of all things paint, how did you get sucked into this discussion on PaintSquare's message board for everybody to see? I personally like steel grit but it has its drawbacks as well. It's pretty clear that the only person on this board that knows his business and isn't selling anything is Mr. Schwerdt, who is seemingly asking rhetorical questions of people who haven't a clue what they are talking about. Hopefully, Tom answers his own questions because I, at least, am eager to learn something about the tests and test methods employed in measuring toxin levels post TCLP. Oh and I don't sell abrasive or any blast/paint goods I am the majority owner of a small inspection company. And Mr. Mellon I don't hate glass--I would recommend the use of glass as freely as I would with many other abrasives given a certain set of parameters in which glass was the most cost effective product.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (3/23/2011, 11:17 AM)

Paul, You seem to want to apply the drinking water standard directly to competing products. This is functionally wrong. It is a drinking water standard, not a blast media, occupational exposure or waste standard. We are not drinking blast media out of the tap. Lets apply the same logic to something everyone here is familiar with: Coins. The change in your pocket has many, many times the action level of copper in it if you misapply that same EPA drinking water standard in the same way you want to do with blast media. US quarters and dimes are ~92% copper - given the density of copper, that dime has about 8,000,000 mg/L of copper in it. The action level is 1.3 mg/L. Should we all forego pocket change? Copper wiring? Copper plumbing? Brass fixtures? I know that I won't. Much like Mr. Hirvi, I don't have any commercial interest in one blast media over another - I just hate to see science and standards misapplied.

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