Rami Atallah

Project title: Evaluating controls for paint chip reduction during broadcast tower restoration work

Degree: MS (Applied) | Program: Applied Occupational Hygiene (App OH) | Project type: Project
Completed in: 2018 | Faculty advisor: Martin A. Cohen


In early February 2018, a contractor performing restoration work on a communications tower in Seattle, 

Washington, deviated from the written work plan and accidentally released lead-containing paint chips 

onto 40 residential and commercial properties in the surrounding neighborhood. Clean-up and 

remediation was conducted in the neighborhood with collaboration between the EPA, EPA contractors, 

the communications tower owners and station owners, remediation contractors, and neighbors. 

Once remediation efforts were completed, tower preparation and painting work was resumed by a new 

tower restoration contractor in late July. Wood Environmental and Infrastructure Solutions, Inc. (Wood) 

was also contracted to monitor the neighborhood for releases of lead paint chips during the restoration 

work. The monitoring work involved inspecting for chips and paint in residential yards and public areas 

surrounding the tower. Wood personnel also documented data on the chips collected such as: the 

quantity of chips per day; daily total chip weights; and approximate chip location and inspection area. 

Daily records were kept of weather conditions and work activities being conducted on the tower. 

Three different control measures were used to limit the release of paint drops and paint chips from the 

tower to the neighborhood. The new tower contractor initially used glove bags around localized work 

areas on the tower to limit the release of chips into neighborhood. However, a significant amount of 

large chips were still being found in the neighborhood. A floor shroud was subsequently installed under 

the work area to catch falling chips in addition to the glove bags. During the last month of the project 

mesh walls were added to the floor shroud to encompass the entire work area. 

The collected chip data was used to assess the effectiveness of each control and assess whether wind 

and work activities correlated with the release of chips. The use of a floor shroud decreased the mass 

per day by 50%, and this was further reduced by another 40% with the addition of mesh walls. 

However, the use of shrouds increased the total amount of chips found on the ground during inspection 

due to new lead-free paint drying on the shroud and being dispersed into tiny fragments. An increase of 

74% of chips was observed when the floor shroud was introduced as a control. The size of these chips 

were significantly smaller and confirmed by chip data that showed a 78% decrease of weight per chip 

when the floor shroud was introduced. The chip mass and total amount patterns were observed in the 

field and confirmed by chip data analysis. Observations from field inspection also seemed to indicate 

that windier days and days that involved scrapping of chips on the tower resulted in more chips found 

during inspection, however these observations were not supported by the chip data analysis.