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Ask the Expert Question-and-Answer Archive

by Ron Joseph

April, 2001

PCB Count in Paints

Q. DRMS/Navy recently conducted a survey of 2 1945 gas/oil barges located in San Diego, CA so that we may sell them as usable barges to the general public. During the PCB survey, paint was scraped off of the manifold of both barges and tested for PCB levels. The counts came back 71 & 148 respectively. Since these barges are being sold to be used for their original intended purpose does the PCB count from the paint, which is below the 499 count restriction for electrical, hinder us from selling the barges.

A. Thanks for your interesting question. First, there should not be ANY PCB in the paint. In fact I have NEVER heard of paint that is formulated with PCB, nor is there any reason why a paint company would incorporate this chemical into the paint. Are you absolutely sure that the paint "contains" PCB, or has the paint exterior simply been contaminated with PCB during the time the barges were in service? If I were you, I'd go back to the lab which made the determination and ask them if any other chemical can give the same response as PCB. Alternatively, ask if the lab can determine if the PCB is incorporated in the paint, or if it is solely on the surface. It is possible that the PCB (if it is truly present) can be washed or scrubbed from the paint surface, and some simple experiments can provide the answer. If my assumption is correct, then you will probably find the PCB only in some localized areas and not all over the barges.

I would be grateful if you would please get back to me with your findings, as this is a really interesting problem.

Unfortunately, I'm not an expert on your obligations concerning the sale of the barges to another party. For that you might want to consult with an environmental attorney, toxicologist or industrial hygienist.

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