Media Contact: Alan Heymann (202) 741-2136
WASHINGTON, DC – Effective July 1, the District of Columbia has made it illegal to use, sell or permit the use of coal-tar pavement products. These products typically come in the form of pavement sealants and pavement dressing conditioners. Non-coal-tar alternatives are readily available. The purpose of the ban is to keep toxic chemicals in coal tar from poisoning local streams and threatening the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers and Chesapeake Bay.
“It’s rare that we have a chance to knock out this kind of pollution in one fell swoop,” said DDOE Director George S. Hawkins. “Our nation has made substantial progress, but now that we’ve discovered what’s in coal tar and what it does, we have a rare opportunity to protect our waterways relatively easily.”
Recent scientific studies have shown that concentrations of toxic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in dust from parking lots sealed with coal-tar products are about 80 times higher than in dust from unsealed parking lots. Rain washes these toxic PAHs from coal-tar sealant off paved surfaces and into rivers and streams. Research suggests that total PAH loads washed off parking lots could be reduced by as much as 90 percent if parking lots were unsealed.
Dust from parking lots sealed with coal tar has more than 3 times the concentration of toxic PAHs as undiluted used motor oil, which has long been considered a leading urban source of PAHs. Other long-recognized urban sources of PAHs include tire particles, vehicle exhaust, and atmospheric deposition from sources like coal-fired power plants.
Property owners and contractors should avoid using products with listed ingredients including the words “coal,” “tar,” “refined coal tar pitch,” or “RT-12.” Ingredients should be listed either on the product container itself or on the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) that should be available through both contractors and distributors.
The penalty for using, selling or allowing the use of coal-tar products is a fine of up to $2,500 per day. The coal-tar ban is part of the Comprehensive Stormwater Management Enhancement Amendment Act of 2008, which Mayor Adrian M. Fenty signed into law January 23, 2009.