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SCDOT Blames Storm for 'Tarpageddon'

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

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In the wake of the painting containment system failure on a Charleston bridge in late July, the South Carolina Department of Transportation has determined that rainwater accumulation caused the collapse.

According to the report, an extreme, unexpected thunderstorm passing through the area caused rainwater to accumulate on the horizontal tarp that was being used on the Don N. Holt bridge painting project. The additional weight most likely caused the failure of the 1-inch-wide chokes that were used to support the suspended platform beneath the bridge’s superstructure.

Tarpageddon Saga

In late July, the collapse of jobsite tarps and netting onto the Holt Bridge resulted in about a dozen vehicles being trapped on the bridge. According to local reports, one person on the bridge was taken to the hospital after having a panic attack. There were also concerns initially about the possibility of lead contamination from the coating system that was being removed.

At the time, the bridge was undergoing a $9.5 million repainting job, with Eagle Industrial Painting (Magnolia, Ohio) as contractor. In the days before the incident, multiple drivers called in their concerns about the state of the tarps.

In the later preliminary report, it was determined that the complaints from motorists in the days leading up to the containment failure pertained to the “roof” part of the containment—tarps that were laid over the upper truss. The failure on July 19, though, involved netting on the “floor” part of the containment, underneath the truss.

Painting Containment Failure

According to SCDOT, the investigation was conducted by an engineer representing Applied Building Sciences, a firm that works with complex collapse claims. In ABS’s report, which includes statements from certified meteorologist Lee Branscome, the day of the incident saw maximum wind speeds of 58 miles per hour, along with 1.68 inches of rainfall that fell within a 5-mile radius of the bridge between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., the time the containment failure occurred.

The report also details that the contractor did not have access to the containment system during the time of the incident, as SCDOT only authorized lane closures at night for work completion.

In a company prelimary report to SCDOT, Eagle Industrial Painting detailed that the initial reports of a loose tarp, unrelated to the actual incident, resulted in the issue being corrected that same day (July 16), and that any reports of hazardous material falling off the bridge and into the river were false, as the contractor could 100 percent confirm that no such thing had occurred. Eagle officials were not immediately available to comment Monday (Oct. 2).

The initial concerns about lead paint were dispelled earlier in the investigation.
According to SCDOT, lead-based paint has not been used on bridges in the state since the 1970s. The Don Holt Bridge was built in 1992.
Testing performed in late 2016 and early 2017 prior to the start of the project confirmed that two paint chip samples "tested at less than 0.5 mg/l, well below the maximum concentration of 5 mg/l defined by the Environmental Protection Agency."


Tagged categories: Accidents; Bridges; Health & Safety; NA; North America; Safety

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (10/3/2017, 9:16 AM)

That description of paint chip testing indicates they did the TCLP test, which measures leachable lead for hazardous waste disposal. This is NOT the same testing required for worker lead exposure, or for lead emissions into the environment, and using only the TCLP number indicates a lack of understanding somewhere.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (10/3/2017, 9:17 AM)

Horizontal tarps at the top of containment should be sloped and supported such that less than 2 inches of rain doesn't cause them to fail.

Comment from Michael Halliwell, (10/3/2017, 11:29 AM)

Agreed, Tom...on both counts.

Comment from Kevin Keith, (10/4/2017, 8:22 AM)

The bridge owners I have worked for require rigid containment when working over traffic. Not only would it prevent a tarpegedeon incident, it also is easier to vacuum the paint chips up after blasting. Even a chain link fence platform would be better than tarps alone. A simple specification change could have prevented the whole mess.

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