Blasting Company Decision Reduces Cost, Time and Dust Exposure


Vapor blasting to remove lead from duct-work structure

Federal Industrial Services WV, Inc., a sandblasting and metalizing services company, provides specialized cleaning and blasting services for a variety of facilities in the U.S., including power plants. At these plants, oxidation occurs within the boilers from firing of the coal, which leads to corrosion on the boiler tubes and slag buildup within the boiler. In just about all cases, the slag buildup contains some silica.

Previously, Federal Industrial Services would use dry blasting to clean and remove this slag and buildup. Because of the amount of dust emissions generated by dry blasting, the company would have to work during off-hours — nights and weekends — to avoiding putting nearby contractors in jeopardy.

“It was important that we kept the area clear of people, other than the operator in full personal protective equipment, when using the dry-blast machine. This became even more of an issue when OSHA announced the new Silica Rule in late 2017, an industry regulation that limits the permissible exposure limit (PEL) to silica,” said Michael Rowh of Federal Industrial Services. “In order to protect our workers and be able to clean boilers during regular working hours, we switched from dry blasting to Vapor Abrasive blasting to reduce employees’ exposure to silica.”

Since Graco’s EcoQuip 2 EQp Vapor Abrasive blaster uses water throughout the blasting process, it reduces the amount of dust by up to 92 percent, allowing the company to blast during the day when other contractors are working in the surrounding areas. The equipment uses less water, however, than traditional water-injection and wet-blasting systems.  

According to Rowh, “Water-injection systems are dirty and put out a lot more water. With EcoQuip, my crew can use Tyvek suits and not be soaked. In addition, we only need one water hook up, which works well at plants since that water is coming from the facility’s fire system. With water-injection systems, like Halo nozzles, you have to find an additional water tank so the plant has enough water to put out a fire, should one occur.”

The EcoQuip setup

Soon after Federal Industrial Services made the switch, a utilities company requested wet blasting for a lead-abatement job on duct work and coal silos. The EQp — which uses a consistent amount of abrasive without surging — cleaned the boilers smoothly. A small and portable unit, it was also able to get into tight areas where larger abrasive blasters can’t go.

In order to encapsulate the lead and render it non-hazardous, the team used coal slag mixed with Blastox, a media ideal for lead-paint remediation. There was no risk of the media hardening in the pot because it was easily cleaned out each day. The machine “isn’t messy and is portable for us to maneuver around job sites quickly,” said Rowh. 

The EQp saved Federal Industrial Services both time and money on the job, and its use reduced exposure of harmful dust to the company’s employees as well as to the surrounding environment. Compared with dry blasting, Vapor Abrasive blasting also reduces hose wear and tear, because the media is kept cool as it passes through. This means less money is spent on new hoses. 

“We invested in one EQp, and it worked out so well for us that we bought another,” said Rowh. “We still have our original hoses for both machines, even though we have been blasting with the first one for over a year.”

Federal Industrial Services has since used the EQp for other applications, such as blasting trucks and trailers. When testing out the unit, the company blast-cleaned an entire truck with an eight-foot bed in just five hours — without getting dust inside. 

Rowh concluded, “This equipment is versatile enough that it opens the door to all sorts of new jobs, allowing us to expand our business.”

Learn more about Graco's EcoQuip 2 EQp.

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