There was a recent news story about three local swimming pools being closed for the season because PCBs were discovered in the paint that lines the pools. Everyone involved acknowledges that the neither the paint nor the PCBs pose a health risk to users of the pools. However, once tested and found to contain PCBs, the paint must be taken out of service according to EPA’s PCB regulations. There is no requirement that the pool paint ever needed to be tested, but conducting the test commits the owner to a significant potential liability.

So it is the act of testing the paint and discovering the PCBs that triggered the need to remove the paint, which is likely to be a very expensive project, particularly if the PCBs are found to have migrated from the paint into the concrete of the pools. Again, no one is saying there is any health risk from the PCBs in the pool paint. So where did the idea of testing the paint come from? According to MassLive it was the recommendation of the City’s consultant, a large engineering firm engaged by the City to assist in developing repair options for the pools.

Since the use of PCBs in paint stopped between 35-40 years ago, the PCBs being discovered now have been in the pool for at least 35 years. By testing the paint for PCBs, the consultant has put the municipality in a position of spending an as yet unknown amount of money to remove the paint from the pools. Then there is the issue of what to do if the PCBs have migrated into the underlying concrete – something which they usually do. The ultimate cost of those seemingly simple PCB tests could well escalate to surprisingly high levels. Hopefully senior municipal representatives were advised in advance by their consultant of the potentials risks and costs of undertaking these PCB tests.