There is a great need for the work that I do,” says Martin Moloney, president of Pioneer Industries, the largest blast and paint service provider in Pierce County, “but there is also a need to comply with regulations and do it right.”

After 20 years on leased Foss Maritime land, Moloney bought a parcel of land on the east side of Thea Foss Waterway at tax auction in 1996. Puget Sound Plywood had used it as a truck maintenance facility, and in the 1940s Post and Son Trucking was there, long before protecting the environment was a concern.

At a cost of about $200,000 and a year of hard work, Moloney had cleaned up the site. Three underground storage tanks on the parcel had to go, along with a couple tenants, several rundown buildings and 400 tons of what Moloney calls antiquated junk. The property also required Level 1 and Level 2 site assessments to certify the dirt was clean.

Then Moloney invested heavily in an office and a shop with equipment and systems that make his operation super clean.

COBI Construction built the new facilities, including a 25-foot by 30-foot by 90-foot blasting booth that uses steel grit to clean metal surfaces in preparation for coating or painting. The grit is repeatedly recovered and reused, while the ventilation system pulls out 30,000 cubic feet of air a minute and replaces it with fresh air.

Pioneer’s paint booth is 60 feet by 110 feet with a 10-ton overhead crane. The booth also is super ventilated and can be cooled to 50 degrees or warmed to 90 degrees in minutes.

All discharged air is filtered to retrieve more than 99 percent of particulates before it is vented outside.

All water used in the operation and drained from the property is pre-filtered before it reaches storm drains. The $25,000 filtering system is one of many added costs Moloney has encumbered for environmental safety and compliance.

Moloney says the only other enterprise in the area that uses a water system as elaborate as his is University of Washington Tacoma.

Because of fire risks in the industry, he points out, the new Pioneer facility has an alarm and sprinkler system that goes beyond government requirements. Alarms are visual and aural, he says, and each air vent includes a sprinkler. The system is explosion proof, says Carl Anderson, fire protection engineer.

“He’s gone to great lengths to protect his business,” Anderson says.

Clients including Marine Industries, Totem Ocean Trailer Express and the National Guard bring equipment to Pioneer to be blasted.

“They thought we wouldn’t be able to keep up with them,” Moloney says of a bus fabricator that dropped off frames there for processing last week, “but they can’t keep up with us.”

After opening the new shop last August with one shift, Moloney has recently added a second and increased his staff of eight.

Moloney says his competitors are having trouble with the Environmental Protection Agency because of compliance issues.

“You’ve got to comply,” he says. “I’ve become reconciled to that.”

He says 32 years’ experience in marine work have educated him on how to do it and still make a profit.

It isn’t easy, Moloney says, because seven agencies regulate his operation, including the Department of Ecology, Health Department, Fire Marshal, Environmental Protection Agency, Puget Sound Air Pollution Authority and Water Quality Control. Making them all happy is its own reward, he adds.

“There’s no other operation like this in the Pacific Northwest,” Moloney says of Pioneer Industries. “I love it.”

By Janice Smith, Business Examiner staff