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Old 09-28-2011, 06:24 PM   #1
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Default Serving my penance...

Just a quick hello and introduction.

I am joining this forum for a fairly unusual reason. My company (Environix) was recently fined by the Washington State Department of Ecology for a failure to designate our waste and improper disposal. This came as quite a shock to us as we pride ourselves in our environmentally sounds practices. However, the Dept. of Ecology wasn't impressed and hit us with a $15,000 fine.

As part of my settlement, they agreed to allow us to perform community service in lieu of a portion of the fine. As you likely have guessed, our community service project is to educate painters on the laws and regulations related to the painting industry.

Here's the rub. The violations we committed are very, very common among painting contractors. In fact, the majority of painting contractors I've observed are committing much worse violations. So, despite the fact that I'm required to help educate all of you, I actually enjoy it because I'd rather not see my fellow contractors nailed with a big fine. And I've found most of the violations occur due to ignorance (as was our case) rather than outright fraud.

In the coming weeks, I'll post more details of what painting practices will likely get you in trouble and some simple steps to avoid a fine. Thankfully, unlike the RRP rules, the EPA/Ecology rules are quite a bit easier to follow.

Regards,

James

Last edited by SeattleMold; 09-28-2011 at 06:31 PM..
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Old 09-28-2011, 06:29 PM   #2
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Oops, I forgot to include the link to our educational site. Paint Disposal Guidelines.
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Old 09-28-2011, 06:39 PM   #3
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Finally..someone that HAS to be here.

Welcome to the forum.
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Old 09-28-2011, 06:44 PM   #4
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Your heart doesn't seem in it. You can do better. hahaha


The fine though, not funny at all. Sorry you had to go through that. I look forward to reading your future posts, James.
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Old 09-28-2011, 06:48 PM   #5
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Hmmm

Welcome look forward to your post.

Last edited by ewingpainting.net; 09-28-2011 at 06:53 PM..
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Old 09-28-2011, 06:57 PM   #6
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over the years ive been de-regualting myself an now you mean to tell me that when im almost there...a point of ZERO regualtions you come waltzing in with your TO DO list ??? ..........I CANT HEAR YOU .....LA LA LA LA LA



......................Welcome aboard, cant wait to find out whats gonna kill me next
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Old 09-28-2011, 07:01 PM   #7
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Default Where to post?

Yes, I will work on showing a little more heart...

Any suggestions on where I should post the info?

The basic gist of it is this:
-- Working with specialty paints. Specifically, disposal requirements for rinse water from paints with mildicides, 'mold proof' additives, etc.
-- Choosing paints that will keep you out of Dangerous Waste Generator status.
-- Employee screw ups - How your employee is cleaning his paint gun may cost you $8,000.

Thanks,

James
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Old 09-28-2011, 07:06 PM   #8
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As we use sprayers 10-20 times per week the last one is one I would choose as a priority. Contact Chris (RCP) a moderator here. She can direct you where your threads would be most appreciated and possibly get you more exposure on her pro painting blog.
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Old 09-28-2011, 07:06 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ole34 View Post
over the years ive been de-regualting myself an now you mean to tell me that when im almost there...a point of ZERO regualtions you come waltzing in with your TO DO list ??? ..........I CANT HEAR YOU .....LA LA LA LA LA
I know, it isn't the most compelling topic... But thankfully, most companies can avoid all the red tape and regulations if they just choose their paints a little more carefully. Annoyingly, some of the eco-friendly, low-VOC paints are the most regulated.
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Old 09-29-2011, 06:23 AM   #10
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Welcome to the boards.. I look forward to reading the material you provided.
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Old 09-29-2011, 10:23 AM   #11
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Welcome, WOW I have never been blessed with being a benefactor of community service. Now get to work!
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Old 09-29-2011, 10:48 AM   #12
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Welcome and I too look forward to reading more of your posts. It does seem like your leading us a little. Hopefully your not going to keep leading and then tell us for $19.95 you'll give us alll the info.
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Old 09-29-2011, 10:58 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NEPS.US
Welcome and I too look forward to reading more of your posts. It does seem like your leading us a little. Hopefully your not going to keep leading and then tell us for $19.95 you'll give us alll the info.
That would help take care of the fine...
It woul be easiest just to tell the story of what caused you to get fined. I hope you can tell the story.

Welcome.
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Old 09-29-2011, 02:39 PM   #14
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Default The story.

I'll admit, I do like the idea of charging $19.95 to help cover the costs of the fine... But I'm doubtful that would fly with the Department of Ecology.

The Phone Call. In mid-April, 2010, I received a visit from the local EPA hazardous waste department. I was informed they had received an anonymous tip regarding evidence of paint disposal down a storm drain at our parking lot. We walked out to the offending drain and sure enough, there were paint stains on the edges of the storm drain. (Point of clarity: the stains for from rinsewater, not raw paint. But unacceptable nonetheless).

I informed the EPA technician that the stains were from a previous employee, who, I discovered 6 months ago, was occasionally disposing of his equipment rinse water down the storm drain. Of course I told him to stop immediately. All of our employees had been told always to dispose of latex rinse water down the sewer. This employee had some authority issues though and was fired a few months later. The EPA technician was only concerned with current hazardous waste emergencies and left shortly thereafter.

Next, I receive a phone call from the local TV news agency. They were airing a segment on our violations and wanted to know if I'd like to comment on the events. Evidently the same 'anonymous' tipster had sent a letter to every TV station and government agency in Western Washington.

A few hours later the television crew shows up and begins by handing me a copy of the anonymous tip letter they received. Now here is where the story gets crazy. They had photos of empty paint buckets tipped over directly on top of the storm drain. Now, I understand my employees sometimes struggle with protocol, but there is no way any of them left inverted paint buckets on top of a storm drain. It was clear that someone was very unhappy with us and artfully placed a few buckets around the storm drain and snapped a couple photos. Oh, and a beer can was tossed in the photo for good measure.

My hunch is that the crazy ex-employee who had performed the original illegal rinse water disposal was the one who setup the photos. He's been caught committing all matter of unemployment and disability fraud over the years. But it's really of no consequence because the PR damage was done.

For the sake of brevity, I'll quickly summarize the following 12 months. The Dept. of Ecology asked us to make numerous changes to our protocol, including building asphalt berms to protect the storm drains. We immediately complied with full enthusiasm. I was annoyed as they were that some rinse water had entered the storm drain. They told us they were quite happy with our compliance and eagerness to work with them.

Unfortunately, their glowing approval of our compliance didn't correspond to forgiveness. About 6 months later, we received a letter from the Dept. of Ecology summarizing an $18,000 fine. I fell out of my chair.

The fines were for two violations:
  • Failure to designate paint equipment with wash wastewater
  • Discharge to state waters of paint equipment wash wastewater

Frankly, I couldn't argue the second violation. An employee had illegally disposed of rinse water into a storm drain. We did manage to prove that the rinse water never left the catch basin under the parking lot, so thankfully no waterways were actually affected. However, this didn't lessen our fine.

Key takeaways for me.
1.) Even if you explicitly inform your employees to follow proper disposal regulations, this does nothing to protect you. If they disregard your rules, you're still on the hook for any fines based on their actions. So if an employee is rinsing his paint gun in the client's backyard, and a curious neighbor snaps a few photos, you're looking at a similar fine.
2.) Even if your violations don't actually effect the environment, you still are charged the same fine.

The fine related to a "Failure to designate" was much more surprising. And this is where I think a lot of painting contractors could be on thin ice. The law, at least in Washington State, requires you to verify that your materials are non-hazardous. Even if the designation process identifies all your waste as non-hazardous, you still are in violation if you fail to designate the waste.

Key takeaways for me.
1.) Several low-voc, eco-friendly paints contain chemical additives regulated as dangerous wastes. The rinse water from these paints cannot be disposed of in the sewer.
2.) All wastes must be designated. Now, some wastes, such as a piece of lumber don't require special designation because its composition is well known. However, you can't look at a can of paint and easily determine its contents. Thus, it must be designated.
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Old 09-29-2011, 03:04 PM   #15
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How do you designate something as waste? Have a lab test the rinse out and they tell your if it needs special handling? Shouldn't manufacturers who KNOW WHAT IS IN IT designate what is required for proper handling? Benjamin Moore Gallons used to just a few years back (maybe still do) say "contents partially unknown." If they do not know, how are we to know?
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Old 09-29-2011, 03:56 PM   #16
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James,

Thank you for picking this site as one of your community service fulfillments.

You asked for a proper place to make your posts, we have a section called Green Painting Practices. I think that would be apprpriate. If not, then General Painting Discussion.

I feel sorry for you, if your side of the story is only 80% true, looks like you got reamed by that asshat ex-employee. You said, "This employee had some authority issues". Us moderators of this forum can empathize. We have some of those here.

From what I read, you have a great attitude despite the sh!t storm that hit you.

I look forward to your posts.



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Old 09-29-2011, 04:14 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by daArch
You said, "This employee had some authority issues". Us moderators of this forum can empathize. We have some of those here.
Who are the problem children here? Just curious.
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Old 09-29-2011, 04:36 PM   #18
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Quote:
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Who are the problem children here? Just curious.

If you haven't received a warning, I wouldn't worry about



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Old 09-29-2011, 05:46 PM   #19
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If you haven't received a warning, I wouldn't worry about
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Old 09-29-2011, 05:49 PM   #20
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