Paint Prohibition

Contractors must make switch as 10 eastern states outlaw sale and use of high-VOC traffic paints.

Effective January 1, 2005, striping contractors in a handful of New England and Mid-Atlantic states will be unable to buy or use solvent paints containing more than 150 grams per liter of volatile organic compounds (VOC), according to Tom Frankiewicz, senior program manager for the Ozone Transport Commission (OTC).

The restriction, based on a regulation that took effect in California in 2003, is the result of a reclassification of paint sold in 5-gallon containers that had been exempt from a 1998 federal regulation limiting VOCs for road marking paint to 150 g/l.

The states that already have the solvent ban in place are Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia. Another five states (Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Virginia) have partial bans on the material or are developing plans to be effective January 1, 2006. Vermont and Connecticut are still in the early stages of implementing any regulations.

All 12 states and the District of Columbia are members of the OTC, a multi-state organization created under the Clean Air Act to advise the EPA on possible regional solutions to help solve ground-level ozone problems in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.

"The OTC regulation sets specific VOC limits for numerous categories of paint as defined by their use," Frankiewicz says. "The solvents used in this paint are one of the main ingredients in smog and the regulation sets specific limits for all types of coating categories."

Gene Pettingill, of Delaware's Dept. of Natural Resources & Environmental Control, says the OTC based its model rule on the California regulation, which OTC states can then modify. He said the 1998 federal regulation established two categories of paint: Traffic Marking Coatings, aimed at roadway striping and paint sold in bulk, and Zone Marking Coatings, which is aimed at off-road striping and paint sold in containers of 5 gallons or less.

While the Traffic Marking Coatings have been limited to 150 VOCs or less for some time by the federal regulation, paints falling in the Zone Marking Coatings category could contain up to 450 g/l. The OTC's model regulation merged the zone marking category into the traffic marking category, so now all pavement marking paint sold in OTC member states must contain less than 150 g/l of VOCs.

Steven Beighley, Sherwin-Williams sales operations manager, says Sherwin-Williams, for example, will no longer sell its alkyd-based paints in restricted states and has instead focused its efforts on its Setfast TM 5626 (white) and Setfast TM 5627 (yellow) materials. He says Sherwin-Williams introduced a new solvent-based low-VOC line — Promar TM 5712 (white) and TM 5713 (yellow) — in January that complies with new OTC regulations. Beighley says that while traditional solvent paints can't be used in the specific states, solvent-based paints that rely on acetone as the primary solvent can be used.

"The contractor is now going to have to decide whether to switch to a latex or use one of the new solvent-based products that has acetone in it," Beighley says.

Frankiewicz says that the states that have the rules already in place are enforcing the regulations, but there is some flexibility involved. He says stores are allowed to sell off the rest of their stock provided it's manufactured before Jan. 1, 2005. Contractors can use restricted paint provided its manufactured before that date as well.

"The reasoning behind the flexibility is that most of these products turn over fairly quickly so there won't be a significant amount of material sitting on the shelf anyway," Frankiewicz says. "It's based on the date on the container."

Frankiewicz says violators can be fined, though the fine varies from state to state. He says fines are based on per can or bucket per day of violation and can apply to any company involved: producer, distributor, retailer, or contractor.

"Sherwin-Williams has had products out there that were VOC compliant but many contractors weren't using them because they were more familiar with other products and they kept using those," Beighley says. "But in the states affected by the regulations contractors will have to make a choice and it might just come down to an individual preference. What material do they want to use and what the people they are doing business for want them to use."