Coal tar sealant debris accumulating at the curb of a sealed parking lot.  This material presents
an exposure hazard and may migrate to the streams, lakes and homes.  Photo by USGS.
This month the USGS presented the science of coal tar sealant pollution to one of the nation's premier public works organizations, the APWA in their APWA Reporter magazine.  The influential American Public Works Association (APWA) represents over 28,000 professionals associated with the maintenance and operation of our nation's public infrastructure.  The article is important in two regards: the reach of the audience and it is a new, succinct summary of the research, marketplace changes, and bans across the US.

The title of the article, You're Standing on It! Coal-Tar-Based Sealcoat and Environmental and Human Health, is an homage to my deceased City of Austin colleague, Tom Bashara.  As the story goes, some impatient bureaucrats arrived at a parking lot and wanted to know where the high PAH readings were coming from; the high levels that people were raising questions about.  Tom's response was, to their shock and dismay, "You're standing on it!"


The influence of the APWA is an important factor.  As can be seen across the nation, local government agencies are often the first in any community to stop the use of coal tar sealcoats.  This knowledge then spreads to the balance of the area either by local bans or just the encouragement to do something good for your community by voluntarily ceasing its use.

The APWA ranks among the top handful of associations in the United States that are directly affected by coal tar sealant practices. Other national organizations have done the same.  For instance, the Water Environment Federation (35,000 members) has also taken steps to educate their members about this problem pollutant.

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