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Full Service PCB Cleanup At Midwest Manufacturing Facility

Pentek system provides for complete decontamination of complex areas of industrial workspace.

Pentek system provides for complete decontamination of complex areas of industrial workspace.

Back in the 80’s , about 10 gallons of PCB contaminated oil escaped from a transformer. While plant management didn’t consider this to be a major problem at the time, changing regulations and more stringent remediation regulations forced a Midwest manufacturer into a potentially disruptive, unplanned cleanup. Pentek’s rapid response allowed operations to continue at this facility during the cleanup activities.

PCBs contained within transformers located on elevated platforms had leaked over equipment critical to plant operations. Additional contamination resulted from direct leakage of the PCBs onto the concrete floor and subsequent tracking around by facility employees. When the PCBs were detected, operation of the entire plant was threatened by the inability to use the contaminated equipment while cleanup actions proceeded. Therefore the equipment had to be restored to service quickly. Some twenty pieces of large industrial equipment including single and multi-head drill presses, threading machines, conveyors, grinders, and 3,600 square feet of concrete floor surfaces were initially characterized as contaminated.

Stephen Foster, consulting engineer for Tenera Risk Management Services, recommended Pentek for the cleanup because “only Pentek proposed scabbling to physically remove surface layers of contaminated concrete flooring; other bidders proposed only solvent washing.” Tenera determined that solvent washing would probably be ineffective given the age of the spill, the condition of the concrete, and the level of traffic the area had seen. Solvent washing relies on dilution and capillary action and usually has to be repeated several times to even approach the low levels of PCB required by the EPA, and even then, no assurance can be provided that residual contamination will not leach back to the surface. With the Pentek approach, residual contamination is removed and deposited into waste drums in a dustless, single-step decontamination operation. According to Foster, “the only effective way of removing PCBs from this facility was to remove the contaminated concrete.”

“Pentek was selected based on their ability to respond quickly,” acknowledges a plant engineer. “We needed to restore this facility as quickly as possible. Pentek was on site and working on machinery critical to plant production in less than 24 hours, worked through the weekend, and completed the decontamination of that machinery within four days. Pentek finished on schedule even though additional machinery and almost 2000 extra square feet of flooring were added to the amount of work.”

Kurt Colborn, Manager of Pentek’s Service Group, describes Pentek’s approach to the cleanup. “Knowing we needed to respond immediately, we flew our first crew in to begin decontaminating several pieces of equipment the client needed right away. Once these pieces were completed , we focused our attention on the remainder of the job, including work on heavy manufacturing equipment, small parts and tools, overhead electrical conduit, air and water pipes, and the final step, scabbling the floor.”

MOOSE® in operation.

MOOSE® in operation.

Pentek’s line of dustless scarifying equipment was used to tackle the floor. The original area of the spill was approximately 3,600 square feet, but the cleanup area was expanded to include about 5,500 square feet due to contamination that might have been tracked around before being detected. Most of this area was free of obstruction, so the MOOSE® remotely operated scabbler was used. Confined spaces near structure or equipment were cleaned using Pentek’s smaller SQUIRREL®-III and Corner-Cutter®. Scabbling to a depth of 1/16th to 1/8th-inch resulted in decontamination of the concrete to releasable levels of less than 10µgm/100cm2. In most areas, residual levels of PCBs were below detectable limits. The concrete dust and debris from this entire operation were disposed in only ten 55-gallon drums.

Interestingly, a transformer maintenance contractor accidentally spilled an additional two gallons of PCB contaminated oil while removing a transformer from service in another part of the facility. The nearby Pentek crew was immediately dispatched to the scene, where they promptly removed 1/8th-inch of concrete from the affected area, thus eradicating the problem.

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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