Sandblasting Water Tanks

Starting in January of 2019, an air quality permit is required for sandblasting of outdoor water tanks in Delaware. Projects removing lead-containing coatings from water tanks by use of dry abrasive blasting must obtain a permit from DNREC’s Division of Air Quality.

Industrial Water Tower and tank

Area Source Compliance Manager
Division of Air Quality

Air Quality Definitions and Administrative Principles
(7 DE Admin. Code 1101)

Air Quality Permits
(7 DE Admin. Code 1102)

Particulate Emissions From Construction and Materials Handling
(7 DE Admin. Code 1106)

Prior to 2019, “outdoor painting and sandblasting equipment” were exempt from the air permit requirement. The Delaware regulation applicable to air permits has been amended so that there is no longer an exemption for “…the removal of lead-containing coatings from outdoor water tanks by dry abrasive blasting.”

DNREC has developed a permit containing requirements that will ensure that blasting operations have sufficient containment measures to prevent the release of abrasive material into the environment.


Water tanks are used for irrigation systems, firefighting, manufacturing processes, farm stock watering, and municipal water supply. Water tanks have, in the past, been coated with paints that contain lead or lead compounds.

Lead is a public health concern. Exposure to high levels of lead can cause damage to the brain and kidneys.  Lead can, even at lower levels of exposure, permanently affect a child’s mental and physical growth.

Dry abrasive blasting is the process of propelling an abrasive material under dry, pressurized conditions against a surface, to remove coatings or to prepare the surface for subsequent coating. Dry abrasive blasting, also referred to as sandblasting, is often used to remove paint from water tanks before they are repainted.

In addition to the new permitting program, Delaware’s regulation regarding Particulate Emissions From Construction and Materials Handling (7 DE Admin. Code 1106) prohibits emissions from sandblasting operations and states “No person shall cause or allow sandblasting or related abrasion operations unless sufficient contaminant measures are taken to prevent the sand or abrasive material from traveling beyond the property line where the operation is being conducted.”