What is the best paint to use when long-used lead-containing paint is no longer permitted, when VOC limits are lowered, when manufacturers are developing new systems, and coating performance is expected to last decades? Such were the questions in 1992 when NEPCOAT, the New England (now Northeast) Protective Coating Committee, was founded to evaluate and qualify the best performing paint systems. For thirty years NEPCOAT has persevered in this purpose and biannually publishes a Qualified Products List. Their testing specification grew from regional to national significance when AASHTO adopted and expanded it to administer lab testing by the National Testing Product Evaluation Program (NTPEP). NTPEP makes test result data available through DataMine. Today many states use the NEPCOAT QPL and NTPEP DataMine in the selection of bridge paint systems. This paper unfolds the story of NEPCOAT.


NEPCOAT stands for the Northeast Protective Coating Committee and is comprised of ten member Departments of Transportation, from Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont. NEPCOAT was founded in 1992 and has for thirty years evaluated and qualified paint systems for use on bridges, both for shop-applied new steel, and field-applied totally cleaned existing steel. Establishing acceptance criteria and publishing a Qualified Products List is based upon a program of accelerated lab testing under the auspices of AASHTO NTPEP.

The Need for Coating Selection

The need for coating selection was keenly felt at the New Hampshire Department of Transportation in 1991. NHDOT was highly motivated to find a solution because of the need to paint the I-95 Piscataqua River bridge (Figure 1), the largest bridge in NH, located on the NHME state line, the principal highway entry into the State of Maine.

Coating selection was caught up in a swirl of major issues involving bridge painting, made complicated by the transition from alkyd paint systems to zinc/epoxy/urethane three-coat systems, the elimination by FHWA(1) in 1993 of lead-containing paints, lowered Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in 1991, and the industry-shaking OSHA(2)Lead in Construction Standard in 1993.

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