A bill calling for a statewide ban on a type of sealant used on parking lots and driveways is alive in the state Senate after passing the House last month on a 67-30 vote.
The target of House Bill 1721, which was heard Tuesday in the Senate Environment, Water and Energy Committee, is coal-tar sealant, which studies have shown emits high concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
PAHs have been linked to cancer and the death of exposed fish and aquatic wildlife. Concentrations in coal tar are about 1,000 times higher than levels found in asphalt-based sealants, which is an alternative substance, according to studies by the U.S. Geological Survey.
Coal-tar sealants are the main cause of rising PAH levels in the sediments of 40 lakes, monitored nationwide by the USGS, agency scientist Peter Van Metre told the senators.
It likely is entering Puget Sound in the form of stormwater runoff, too, said Mo McBroom, policy director of the Washington Environmental Council.
“This is a tangible step we can take to reduce stormwater pollution entering our water bodies,” McBroom said in support of the bill.
Washington would be the first state to impose a statewide ban on the product, which is used primarily by private contractors. It has been banned in places such as Austin, Texas, and Washington, D.C.
The Pavement Coatings Technology Council based in Alexandria, Va., opposes the legislation, saying it would be a burden to small businesses, council scientist Anne LeHuray said. She noted that PAHs are present in the environment from a wide range of sources, including automobile exhaust, motor oil and wood-burning stoves.
She questioned some of the conclusions of the USGS study and recommended that legislators wait for the state Department of Ecology to complete a study of PAH contamination sources.
“It would be premature to pass this bill before the study is complete,” she said.
The state Department of Transportation used to apply coal-tar sealants to highway rest area parking lots but stopped because of environmental concerns two years ago, state materials engineer Thomas E. Baker said.
“We discontinued the use of coal-tar products because scientific studies have raised significant concerns about links between these products and PAHs,” Baker said in a Feb. 11 letter to state Rep. David Frockt, the prime sponsor of the bill.
Frockt said he’s not aware of any cities or counties using coal-tar sealants in the state.
“It’s mostly private applications,” he said.
Van Metre told the senators that parking lots treated with coal-tar products showed high concentrations of airborne PAHs, and PAH levels in dust in apartments next to coal-tar treated parking lots were 25 times higher than PAH levels in dust from apartments near concrete, asphalt or asphalt-based seal-coat parking lot surfaces.
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