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3/29/2010
A year later, Farow anti-graffiti machine to be street legal. Liability, insurance issues finally resolved - Community News

By Jesse Chadderdon
Community News
Posted Mar 29, 2010 @ 02:20 PM
Brandywine Hundred, Del. —
Imagine being given a new Porsche - and then not being able to put the top down and take it out for a spin. For a whole year!

That's more or less the situation faced by dozens of volunteers throughout New Castle County who have banded together to fight graffiti.

Last April, a West Chester, Pa., company donated a patented machine that literally blasts away graffiti. But aside from a single demonstration, it's never been used.

Because of insurance and storage issues, none of the volunteers felt comfortable keeping the machine - which sits on a trailer and is about the size of a large jet ski - at their homes.

That's when the Department of Transportation stepped in, and agreed to house it at the Talley Construction Yard just off I-95 in Brandywine Hundred.

The problem is DelDOT was never able to adequately address liability issues to feel comfortable lending it out. And under the current fiscal climate, they were unable to dedicate taxpayer-financed manpower to supervise the machine's use.

A $16,000 machine that swiftly removes graffiti without any damage to surfaces was sitting idly, collecting dust.

At least until Mike Ansul came along.

Ansul, a Brandywine Hundred native, said he read news stories about the efforts of Councilman Robert Weiner (R-Chatham) to organize a countywide anti-graffiti brigade. Now a Townsend resident, Ansul gave the brigade its first member south of the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal.

But that's not all. A general contractor, Ansul was willing to insure the Farrow Machine through his company and make it available for volunteers to use throughout the county.

He took title of the machine on Wednesday.

"We're very fortunate to have someone like Mike come along," Weiner said. "He was the missing cog in all of this and now we're going to have this equipment available for the benefit of all our communities."

Ansul said he understands the challenge faced by DelDOT and said he's happy to help.

"I've got plenty of blasting experience from my industrial background, so it's no problem for me to take it," he said. "It's going to allow us to expedite removing a lot of graffiti."

The machine itself was designed by inventor Nigel Farrow to clean the bottoms of racing yachts. But Farrow later discovered the technology works on just about any surface, including wood fencing, concrete and metal – the kinds of surfaces graffiti vandals frequently target.

Removing graffiti is preferable to simply painting over it, Weiner said, because painting is not always aesthetically pleasing.

The machine uses a combination of hot water and crushed volcanic rock as an abrasive, but does not use any chemicals.

“It’s completely environmentally safe,” said Farrow, a former professional soccer player in England who later got into farming before patenting the invention that bears his name 11 years ago. “I’m the first man in the world to put heat into blasting and that’s the secret.”

Farrow says his equipment has been used to remove graffiti at the Bronx Zoo, on trees in Central Park. It’s even been used to clean up Grant’s Tomb, he said.

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