SF Awards $74,500 Grant For Research Into Greener Graffiti Removal

Graffiti can be removed with safer and cheaper alternatives rather than the toxic chemicals frequently used in cleanups, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and San Francisco city officials said today.

The EPA teamed up with city and regional agencies to award a $74,500 grant to a research firm to develop new methods of removing graffiti.

The new methods were highlighted at a news conference this morning at Agua Vista Park, a waterfront space in San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood that had graffiti on lampposts and a short pier out onto the Bay.

Blasters that spray dry ice or crushed, recycled glass are among the alternative methods for graffiti removal encouraged by the EPA, said Jared Blumenfeld, the agency’s regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest.

Blumenfeld said the blasters “remove graffiti and at the same time protect the environment and worker health,” while also costing less than the older products.

He said currently, about 600 pounds of hazardous pollutants are let into the air each day in the U.S. by cleanup crews removing graffiti, which costs the nation an estimated $12 billion each year.

The problem is prevalent in San Francisco, where the city spends more than $20 million annually on graffiti removal, said Department of Public Works director Mohammed Nuru.

“It’s very painful,” Nuru said.

The new methods were developed by the Los Angeles-based Institute for Research and Technical Assistance and also include less-toxic graffiti removal products containing acetone and other chemicals that can be used on San Francisco Municipal Railway buses and trains.

Muni officials said the cost to their agency alone for graffiti abatement runs above $12 million per year.

The institute will test the new products at sites in the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas, with outcomes intended for use by cities and counties around the U.S.

“Once it starts in San Francisco, we predict it will go national,” Blumenfeld said.

More information about the graffiti program can be found online at www.epa.gov/region9/mediacenter/graffiti/.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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  • frenchjr25

    The problem is that graffiti removal is complicated by the materials the paint sprayed on. Removing pain from brick depends on the type and softness of the brick. Granite has to be treated differently than marble. And shooting material like recycled glass at a building can cause significant damage.

    • Dario Manti

      I use recycled crushed glass to clean building all the time without any damage. My Tornado ACS machine is designed to avoid damaging the surface. I have cleaned clay brick and lime mortar heritage buildings and terrazzo marble floors in hospitals and airports. It’s the choice of technology, skill, knowledge and experience … not just the abrasive which makes the difference.

      • frenchjr25

        Thank you for the feedback. The difference is probably the pressure at which the materials are projected at. I remember when buildings were once sandblasted, which caused significant damage. Knowing that there are alternatives is great. I would much rather see graffiti removed rather than painted over.