July 4, 2008

Fighting Graffiti and Saving the Planet


Pete Hall, general manager of Surface Cleaning Technologies, removes graffiti from a wall along St. Johns Road. To remove the paint, a compressor mixes volcanic sand, air and hot water, rather than caustic chemicals.

Graffiti artists, who have turned public spaces into their personal paint-splotched easels, may have met their match in the form of the Farrow 185.

Compared with various chemical sealants and high-pressure soda blasters used by county workers to erase graffiti, the trailer- mounted gadget's arsenal doesn't seem so imposing.

It uses nothing more than low-pressure air, volcanic sand and heated water.

Yet it's murder on graffiti.

The machine showed itself to be a fast and chemical-free graffiti eradicator in a sales demonstration earlier this week for employees of the Clark County Public Works Department. Pete DuBois, the county's newly hired sustainabilty coordinator, said Bellevue-based Surface Cleaning Technologies may earn the sale on cost savings alone.

"They may be the only bidder," DuBois said.

With a price tag of $48,000, county officials said, the machine may recoup its cost in less than a year. Bart Arthur, an engineer in the county's construction department, said the cost of treating sound walls with anti-graffiti cleaning products amounts to between $1 and $1.25 per square foot.

Bridges, sound walls, park surfaces, picnic tables: They're all canvas for the spray-paint-wielding vandals striving to make their mark.

And they're a chronic headache for county workers.

"We've gotten a lot more in the last three years than I've ever seen," said Bill Bjerke, operations superintendent for the Clark County Public Works Department.

Ignoring it isn't an option, he said.

"If we leave it up there, it's actually going to draw more graffiti," he said. "Our best defense is to remove it."

Originally published by ERIK ROBINSON Columbian staff writer.

(c) 2008 Columbian. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.