On February 26 the Pavement Coatings Technology Council (PCTC) sponsored a webinar, “How to Fight for your Sealcoating Business,” that addressed efforts to ban refined coal tar-based sealer in New York. The webinar, presented via Pavement Maintenance & Reconstruction, featured John and Bill Walsh of VelveTop Products, who shared their experiences and lessons learned interacting with a local government about an effort to ban refined tar-based pavement sealer. The webinar also featured Mike Juba, Koppers Inc., who talked about challenges facing the sealcoating industry and initiatives undertaken by PCTC to address challenges.
More than 280 people registered for the webinar, and following are answers to 21 questions posed by contractors during the webinar.
1. Does this ban only include Suffolk County? Is there a possibility of this issue spreading to other counties in upstate NY? Is there any interest in NJ for this ban?
Suffolk County is the only part of New York that has banned refined tar-based pavement sealer (RTS). NY State Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal has introduced a bill to ban RTS statewide (bill number A630). Contractors in New York State should contact their elected representatives in the state Assembly and Senate, asking them to oppose this bill. Another way for contractors to have their voices heard is through the New York Associated Builders & Contractors (ABC) or through the New York state or local Chamber of Commerce. We are not aware of any similar activities in New Jersey.
2. Is there a counter suit or appeal process started to reverse the Suffolk County legislation?
Not at this time.
3. How can we identify if this is legislation being proposed or even talked about in our market?
It can be difficult to learn about what is being talked about within local governments without going to every public meeting. Many states have state and local chapters of the Associated Building & Contractors, an organization that tries to stay on top of government activities in their areas. Likewise, the Chamber of Commerce has many state and local chapters. If you are a member of an ABC chapter or a state or local affiliate of the Chamber of Commerce, ask them to help watch for developments concerning RTS.
4. Did you find any liability issues with having previously sold and/or applied a product that had just been banned? Will contractors be responsible or included in any civil lawsuit?
PCTC is not aware of any product liability lawsuits.
5. Who was beating the drum to have coal tar emulsions banned?
The movement was started by activist employees of the City of Austin, TX, and the Austin, TX, office of the U.S. Geological Survey. Austin and U.S. taxpayers are financing their activism.
6. Has there been any testing that proves refined coal tar sealer (RTS) is damaging to environment?
No. RTS passes EPA’s TCLP (Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure) and VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds)emissions testing protocols. TCLP is a test of how much material leaches into the environment. VOC tests measure how much gaseous material is released.
7. What can we tell a customer about the safety of refined coal tar? We know it is a better product but we need to give the customer good info about the safety issues.
Many PCTC member companies have been owned by the same families for two, three or even four generations, and many members of those families have worked with RTS for most of their lives, starting when they were very young. These are the people with the highest and longest exposure to RTS from manufacture to application. Within the memories of these families PCTC has not been able to identify any chronic health effects.
8. Why does coal tar burn human skin off? Why do they sell burn creams?
This question asks about coal tar. A refined coal tar product is used in the manufacture RTS, but RTS is not coal tar. That said, if RTS emulsions contact the skin in the presence of sunlight they can irritate the skin, and applicators can experience moderate to severe “sunburn” effects if they do not wear appropriate clothing including long sleeved shirt, long plants and work gloves. Depending on the method of application and weather conditions a hat and face shield may be appropriate. Protective creams are available to minimize skin contact with sealer and to block ultraviolet rays from the sun which can enhance skin irritation. When proper handling and personal hygiene precautions are observed skin irritation should not be a significant problem.
9. Has the ISSA (International Slurry Seal Association) been advised of this situation?
If your company is a member of a trade association such as ISSA or an ABC chapter or a group such as a local or state Chamber of Commerce, please let them know of your concerns and give them PCTC’s contact information.
10. Have asphalt-based sealants (ABS) been proven to be less hazardous than refined coal tar sealants? Has anyone investigated asphalt emulsions and their impact on the environment?
Most of the recent studies have focused on RTS. A study done at the University of New Hampshire was first described as a comparative study of ABS and RTS, but, apparently because the results were similar, the researchers decided after the fact that both parking lots must have been sealed with RTS. The applicator applied two different products, but testing done after completion of the study was inconclusive. EPA has also conducted a runoff study of parking lots sealed with ABS and RTS.
11. How often would you seal a residential driveway using asphalt emulsions?
The answer to this question may be different in different climates. Please consult with your ABS provider.
12. Do additives help in drying of asphalt emulsion as well as performance?
Manufacturers use different additives. Please consult with your ABS provider.
13. Are there other causes of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) besides refined coal tar sealer? Aren’t car tires a big producer of PAHs?
Several studies of the relative mass contribution of PAHs have been published for different parts of the country. In general, the largest sources of PAHs are identified as wood stoves and fireplaces (in some areas, more than two times any other single source), vehicle emissions, petroleum product spills and-treated wood. Tire wear and RTS are identified to be tiny contributors to the mass of environmental PAHs.
14. Are PAHs emitted during the manufacture of hot mix asphalt at a hot mix plant?
PCTC has no information on this topic.
15. What do the people behind the Austin ban say about the fact that the PAH levels have not decreased after 8 years with no refined coal tar sealer use?
They say that insufficient time has passed to see the effect. However, the “before and after study” of sediments in Austin was designed to include newly deposited sediment samples, with the expectation that changes would thus be detectable – especially if, as the Austin government-employed activists promised, banning sealers would remove about 90% of the source of PAHs. Equally as telling, forensic analysis of PAHs in Austin sediments collected by the U.S.G.S. before the ban and in the PCTC-sponsored study before and after the ban show no identifiable contribution of PAHs by RTS.
16. We are a contractor in Bexar County, TX. San Antonio. Coal tar has been banned in Travis Co. for years. It was just banned in Hays and Comal counties just north of San Antonio. Do you anticipate ban continuing south to Bexar Co.
Austin, TX is located in Travis County. The question refers to a rule that applies only to the recharge zone of the Edwards Aquifer in Hays and Comal Counties, put in place by the Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA). There was no scientific or technical or, indeed, rational basis for the EAA to institute this rule. The rule applies only to a portion of the two counties in question, not to the entire counties. Please contact your elected representatives in Bexar County to express your concerns.
17. Why are Fort Sam Houston, Lackland AFB, and Randolph AFB specifying refined coal tar sealer while the same product is banned 30 miles north?
ASTM-standard RTS is specified for use at airports by the Federal Aviation Administration and by the Department of Defense. Neither the ban in Austin nor the rule concerning Edwards Aquifer recharge zones applies outside those jurisdictions.
18. In Wisconsin they are trying to pass the ban. The University of Madison is handing out flyers to ban coal tar. I am worried that in the middle of my season I will have to switch sealer. Does a company switch to asphalt emulsion because of scare tactics?
The question is referring to a mailing sent out by the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point Extension Service. Promulgating false information about RTS is an initiative of that organization and, as a Wisconsin taxpayer, you should express your opinion to the university and to your elected representatives. PCTC is not aware of an effort to pass laws that ban RTS in Wisconsin, but please let us know if you hear anything.
19. Do you think refined coal tar will be banned by the federal government?
In 2012, the congressman from Austin, TX, introduced a bill in the House of Representatives to amend a federal law to include a nationwide ban on RTS. The bill did not attract a great deal of attention in 2012.
20. Where can I obtain facts and figures on the benefit of sealcoats and their use in extending the lifespan of paving?
Please take a look at the information available on PCTC’s web site.
21. Would it be possible to use the PCTC logo as a link to the PCTC website on our own websites?
Please send an e-mail with a request to link from your website to PCTC.
Information for this article was provided by the Pavement Coatings Technology Council, 2308 Mount Vernon Avenue, Suite 134, Alexandria, VA 22301; www.pavementcouncil.org; reach executive director Anne LeHuray at firstname.lastname@example.org.