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PCB Cleanup in the Pacific

SQUIRREL-III at Kwajalein. Notice ventilated containments and respirator, protection were not required.

SQUIRREL-III at Kwajalein. Notice ventilated containments and respirator, protection were not required.

At Kwajalein Atoll, in the Republic of the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific, the US Army decided to undertake a major effort to remove PCB contamination from the island. As part of that effort, PCB contaminated equipment was removed from service and placed in a warehouse until proper disposal could be arranged. But after only several months of storage, PCB fluid from the equipment had leaked and was detected on the concrete floor of the facility.

Advanced Sciences, Inc., the environmental service coordinator for the cleanup, determined that solvent cleaning would present both safety and logistics problems for the island and would be of questionable effectiveness. The job had to be completed right the first time.

Dustless scabbling was selected as the best option for the cleanup. According to Sarah Battelle of ASI, “Because of the remoteness of the location, we wanted a limited disposal. Scabbling was chosen because it creates less waste than demolition methods.”

In September 1990, a Pentek service crew traveled to Kwajalein to perform the cleanup. Two SQUIRREL®-III scabblers were used together with a VAC-PAC® to scabble approximately 750 square feet of contaminated surface. Concrete was removed to a depth of 1/16th to 1/8th-inch with some small hot spots requiring up to one inch of removal. This process created only two drums of waste and took three days to complete. During this time, other ongoing activities in the warehouse proceeded as usual and didn’t have to be disrupted by the cleanup effort. During and after the removal, tests revealed that there was no non-detectable dust on or around the surfaces. Satisfied with the effort, the US Army decided to purchase a complete VAC-PAC®, SQUIRREL®-III, and Corner-Cutter® system for maintenance purposes in the event future contamination problems occur.

Phase Two of Cleanup

In April of this year, additional, previously undiscovered PCB contamination was found on the island. The US Army requested supplemental equipment and services to expedite the government’s cleanup schedule. Pentek responded to assist with the cleanup of 1,600 square feet of contaminated concrete and several cubic yards of sand. This effort took approximately one week to complete. Tests results show that residual contamination levels in the soil were 10 ppm and less than 10 ppm in the concrete.

For more information please email us, see our contact page or visit our vacuum tool and robotics product pages.

Reprinted from Pentek Ink, Vol 7

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