A New England painting contractor has landed in hot water after allegedly conducting uncontained late-night abrasive blasting in a Massachusetts harbor on St. Patrick’s Day.
|“No marine job is too big or too small for” New England Sandblasting & Painting, the company says on its web site.|
New England Sandblasting & Painting Corp., of Rochester, MA, is accused of conducting open-air abrasive blasting on a vessel in the Port of New Bedford from about 8 p.m. Saturday until authorities were called at 10:39 p.m. and shut down the operation.
The company declined Monday to comment on the case.
‘Strange Hissing Sound’
Port Security Sgt. Jill Simmons said Monday that authorities received an anonymous tip late Saturday night about “what appeared to be smoke rising from the water and a strange hissing sound.”
Responding fire crews and port security found a crew from NESP using a coal-slag abrasive to blast lead-based paint off the exterior of the fishing vessel Pontos as it floated in the harbor.
The abrasive covered a half-dozen other vessels and was spewing into the water. The crew—illegal Guatemalan immigrants, Simmons said—told authorities that they had been working since 8 p.m.
Simmons said the blasting was being conducted in the middle of remediation equipment installed in the harbor several years ago for an ongoing clean-up effort of PCB material. State law prohibits blasting in and around the harbor.
Authorities released the crew and called the company’s owner. NESP advertises full surface preparation, restoration and coating services for marine, bridge, industrial and municipal applications.
“We said, ‘What do you think you’re doing?’” said Simmons. “He said that he had so much work that he had to run it off at night.”
Port of New Bedford
|The Port of New Bedford is the nation’s top fishing port, but it has been treated as a “dumping ground”—a situation that local authorities are trying to turn around.|
Fire crews spent several hours trying to contain the paint debris, using booms designed to contain oil spills to trap the paint inside the cove.
The scope of the damage is still being determined, since the activity occurred late on a weekend night, but Simmons said the area “was a disaster.”
The company will be charged with dumping in the waterway, which carries a fine of $5,500 for a first offense and $15,000 for subsequent offenses. This will be the port’s first charge involving the company.
However, extensive clean-up will also be required, and “that’s where they [the company] are going to pay the big dollars,” said Simmons.
The cleanup will be supervised by the state Department of Environmental Protection, which also was called to the scene. The U.S. Coast Guard also is investigating.
Once the world’s greatest whaling port, and still the country’s top fishing port, the Port of New Bedford pre-dates the Pilgrims’ arrival at Plymouth by 18 years.
However, Simmons said the port has been plagued by illegal environmental activity for years.
“New Bedford has always been known as a dumping ground,” she said. “It’s just an attitude that’s been here forever. We’re working very hard to change it.”