Mike Diewald, manager of Frankfurth Autobody and Towing, and painter Collin Henderson both grew up in Sequim. Although it might sound "hokey," Diewald said, "We like the idea of how beautiful it is here and wanted to keep it that way."
The volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, in the paint they used diminished air quality despite an extensive filtering system. Earlier this year, they switched to waterborne paint to reduce their shop's emissions and improve air quality in the workplace.
VOCs are chemical compounds that produce fumes and they can occur naturally - think methane gas and the scent of flowers. Environmental concern focuses on VOCs in manmade products such as pesticides, adhesives, cleaning products and paint.
Diewald read in trade magazines about the auto painting industry's efforts to develop low-VOC paints, as government regulations have imposed strong controls in California and Canada.
In the car-painting process, he said, there are three steps: primer, colored paint and clear coat. At this time, only the colored paint is available as a low-VOC product. However, that one step reduces VOC emissions by about 25 percent, he estimates.
"It's a pretty efficient system," said Henderson, who graduated from Sequim High School in 1996 and completed an automotive course at Wyoming Tech in 1997.
"Color matching has been a little easier. That's the most difficult part."
John Kelly, an engineer with the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency, confirmed that the waterborne paints reduce VOC emissions.
"Some of those VOCs are hazardous," he said.
"They also contribute to smog. That's more of a concern in metropolitan areas."
Within the industry, the change is being accomplished through the development of paint that is water-based rather than solvent-based. Diewald said quicker drying time and quicker color mixing make the product save significant time.
He also has found that the low-VOC paint gives better color coverage and requires fewer coats of paint for good, strong color.
The new process costs no more to the consumer, he said, and in the few instances where solvent-based paints are a better option, the shop still can accommodate that need.
Auto factories are using low-VOC paint universally now and Diewald said, "We are able to reproduce the factory finish easier because we're using the same kind of paint."
"We're the only ones on the peninsula," using low-VOC auto paints, he said.
John Kelly, of ORCAA, recently made an informal survey of auto painters in Clallam County and said, "There's none that I'm aware of," except Frankfurth Autobody, which are using the low-VOC paint.
"We all know it's better for the environment," Diewald said. "Any small amount we can do is a step in the right direction. The next step we're hoping for is a low-VOC clear coat."
Reach Sandra Frykholm at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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