STORMWATER STRAIGHT TALK: Painting and Stormwater

  • Published
  • By 78th Civil Engineer Group

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga.  Home painting projects use a lot of materials to complete.

Preparing may include applying spackle, caulk and primer, as well as painter’s tape and drop cloths. Painting may require rollers, brushes, mixers, trays, tray liners and the paint itself.

After painting, it all needs to be cleaned up with rags, gloves, cleaners, trash bags and used paint buckets. Many of the materials used to complete a paint project contain contaminants that can harm our environment. Chemicals in paint and related materials have the potential to destroy sensitive ecosystems and pollute recreational water bodies when not managed and disposed of properly.

Best management practices are practical techniques that reduce stormwater pollution and protect water quality. From surface preparation to final clean up, waste and left-over materials from painting activities need to be handled properly to protect our environment.

To help reduce stormwater pollution, potential BMPs you can use during your next home painting project are provided below. Please remember that all base and Air Force protocols are required to be followed when conducting depainting/painting activities related to base mission activities.

Before Your Project:

- Calculate the amount of paint and primer required for the job, and only buy what you need.

- When painting outdoors, identify and protect nearby storm drains by covering the inlets with waterproof material, or place temporary barriers to block the inlet openings during the painting. Remember, storm drain inlets convey flow directly to our lakes, rivers and streams without treatment.

- Use sand blasting, wet scraping techniques and/or citrus-based paint removers, when possible. 

During Your Project:

- Use drip pans and drop cloths when mixing and painting.

- Have spill cleanup materials readily available and utilize dry cleaning methods whenever possible – i.e., sweeping, vacuuming, mopping, or using absorbents.

After Your project:

- Squeeze paint from brushes and rollers back into the container. 

- Pour excess paint from trays and buckets back into the container. 

- Water-based/latex paint is considered non-hazardous, and brushes can be rinsed in an indoor drain leading to the sanitary sewer. Never clean paint products or dispose of unused paint in a storm drain.

- Properly dispose of dry paint chips, rags, brushes and empty containers in a trash bag and then into a lidded dumpster.

- Oil-based products, such as paint thinner, chemical paint stripping residue, oil-based and lead-based paint chips, clean up material, are hazardous and must be disposed of according to state and local regulations. Never clean oil-based products in a sink or over a storm drain.

- Empty, dry paint buckets can be disposed of in the trash. Never throw leftover wet paint in the trash. Completely solidify the paint with sawdust or cat litter before disposal in the trash or locate your nearest household hazardous waste disposal facility.

If improper waste disposal is observed at Robins Air Force Base, please contact Environmental Management at 478-327-9283.

Editor’s Note: Stormwater Straight Talk is a quarterly column intended to educate and inform base personnel and families about stormwater management.