| Connect Follow us on Twitter Like us on Facebook
About | Subscribe | Advertise


Download our free eResource: Safety in Coatings Work.

Paint and Coatings Industry News

Main News Page

Carlsbad Odor Laid to Coating, Solvent

Friday, July 27, 2012

More items for Environmental Controls

Comment | More

Carlsbad Caverns National Park has reopened after “extensive” air quality testing showed that chemical vapors released during elevator renovation had not spread to the visitor center or surrounding cave areas.

The caverns and visitor center in the park were closed and the work halted about 2 p.m. Monday (July 23) after “overpowering” odors from an elevator renovation project left employees with severe headaches, the park superintendent said.

 National Park Service

 National Park Service

Renovation of the caverns’ two primary elevators is a complex project that included renovation of the twin Dover G250 motors installed in 1976. The motors have powered the two cars on more than 1.6 million trips on the 750-foot journey down into, and back out of, Carlsbad Cavern.

The employees were treated at area medical facilities and released.

Coating, Solvent Identified

The products in use at the time were an immersion-grade epoxy and the solvent methyl-ethyl-ketone, park spokeswoman Paula J. Bauer wrote in an email.

The epoxy is used to provide corrosion protection in maintenance and new construction projects. The product can be used direct to metal as a corrosion-resistant primer or as an intermediate coating over other primers, according to the manufacturer.

 Wikimedia Commons / Eric Guinther

 Wikimedia Commons / Eric Guinther

The vapors did not spread to surrounding caves or to the Visitor Center, the  Park Service said.

Both parts of the product are flammable, contain silica, and are harmful if inhaled, according to the MSDS.

Methyl-ethyl-ketone, also known as butanone, is a common industrial solvent.

The Park Service declined to say exactly how the products were being used or what contractor was performing the work.


The park brought in industrial hygienists Tuesday (July 24) to test the air quality, superintendent John Benjamin said in a prepared statement.

"Three industrial hygienists toured the building this morning and tested air quality with two separate sets of instruments," said Benjamin. "With their precise test results and after consultation with safety experts, we are confident the air quality is safe for visitors and employees."

After the park service received the test results Wednesday morning, the caverns and visitor center reopened at noon that day.

About the Project

The ongoing renovation of the caverns’ primary elevators began July 16 and is a complex project, the Park Service said. The vapors became a severe problem by the first weekend and were “overpowering” by July 22, said Benjamin. Ventilation efforts failed to dispel them.

Carlsbad’s original 750-foot deep elevator shaft was drilled in 1931, and the elevator opened in 1932. Two larger elevators and another shaft were added in the 1950s. Some of the elevators are used for freight; others, for passengers.

Park officials said they don't believe the fumes affected the cave or its wildlife, but staff will continue to monitor all areas.

The Park Service will provide ongoing updates at (575) 785-2232.


Tagged categories: Air quality; Environmental Protection; Health and safety; Protective coatings; Solvents; Ventilation

Comment from M. Halliwell, (7/30/2012, 10:48 AM)

Oh joy....MEK in the news again. At least it wasn't fatalities this time...

Comment from Richard McLaughlin, (7/31/2012, 9:45 AM)

M.H., I think MEC (Methylene Chloride)is the culprit you're thinking of. The popular paint stripper is VERY aromatic and quite dangerous if not respected. As far as that, most VOCs and HAPs can be dangerous if not respected.

Comment from M. Halliwell, (7/31/2012, 10:41 AM)

Richard, you are quite right....I shouldn't try to type responses before 9 am local time ;)

Comment Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.

Environmental Controls
Equipment & Service

Temporary climate control equipment. Dehumidifiers,
Heaters, A/C, Power, More…
Toll Free: 866-379-2600

SSPC: The Society for Protective Coatings

Join SSPC and Enhance
Your Career !

Modern Safety Techniques
Modern Safety Techniques

See our Low Temperature Catalyst for your CO removal needs. Help to provide your workers with safe, comfortable breathing air!

CS Unitec
Surface Prep & Material Removal

CS Unitec’s Floor Planers remove coatings & corrosion from concrete & metal surfaces. Produce keyed profiles for waterproofing applications.

Thermion Inc
Buy Back Program

We are offering $5,000
credit for your old Model
This drive system is
being discontinued by
the manufacturer.
More information at

Wasser High-Tech Coatings Inc.
Wasser Coatings Protect

Wasser Coatings offer a complete range of Moisture Cure Urethane (NEPCOAT approved) systems in addition to Polyurea membranes and linings(NSF).

International Paint LLC

International Paint Engineered Coatings

Learn about our solutions for:
  • Structural Steel
  • Piping & Equipment
  • Storage Tanks
  • Pressure Vessels
  • Secondary Containment

    Blastox/The TDJ Group, Inc.
    Blastox - One Step
    Lead Abatement

    Don't waste $$ on added labor steps with other methods. Don't mix, meter or apply at the job-site. Avoid strict hazardous waste rules.
    Let your painters paint!

    Sidewinder/Persyst Enterprises, Inc.
    The Sidewinder Model M2 Solvent Recycler

    Combat the rising cost of gunwash, thinners, acetone & more while drastically reducing waste disposal coat.

    Technology Publishing

    The Technology Publishing Network

    The Journal of Protective Coatings & Linings (JPCL) PaintSquare
    Durability + Design Paint BidTracker

    EXPLORE:      JPCL   |   PaintSquare News   |   Interact   |   Buying Guides   |   Webinars   |   Resources   |   Classifieds
    REGISTER AND SUBSCRIBE:      Free PaintSquare Registration   |   Subscribe to JPCL   |   Subscribe to PaintSquare News
    MORE:      About   |   Privacy policy   |   Terms & conditions   |   Site Map   |   Search   |   Contact Us

    © Copyright 2000-2015, Technology Publishing / PaintSquare, All rights reserved
    2100 Wharton Street, Suite 310, Pittsburgh PA 15203-1951; Tel 1-412-431-8300; Fax 1-412-431-5428; E-mail