Contacts: Ralph Pribble (MPCA), 651-757-2657; Nick Kelso (Jet-Black), 952-212-0410
St. Paul, Minn. ― Coal-tar residues that can contaminate stormwater ponds may become a thing of the past thanks to a voluntary phase-out by Eagan-based Jet-Black International, one of the nation’s larger franchisers of pavement seal-coating services.
The company decided to voluntarily phase out coal-tar-based sealers late this winter in response to scientific data showing that coal-tar-based sealers are an important source of contamination to stormwater-collection systems in Minnesota. The switch to an asphalt-based formulation will help keep harmful chemicals out of Minnesota’s surface waters.
The phase-out calls for all 25 of Jet-Black's Minnesota franchises to voluntarily phase out coal-tar-based sealants in 2012, with a complete change to an asphalt emulsion sealant by the start of the 2013 season.
“Jet-Black stepped up and took action to phase out coal tar in their sealant,” MPCA Commissioner Paul Aasen said. “When an industry leader embraces science-based recommendations like this, it really helps. Coal-tar-based sealants are a major source of contamination in storm-pond sediments, with potentially harmful impacts to the environment, human health, and the budgets of cities that own and maintain stormwater ponds.”
Jet-Black co-owner Nicholas Kelso said, “We were concerned that continued use of coal-tar sealants will lead to unsustainable and costly pond cleanups at the expense of the citizens of Minnesota. Studies show that phasing out coal-tar sealants will help reduce the cost of these cleanups, so Jet-Black and our Minnesota franchise owners believe this is the responsible thing to do.”
Kelso added, “Sealcoating itself is not the problem. It's the recipe that's important, and coal tar is being removed from Jet-Black formulations.”
Recent research shows that chemicals in coal-tar-based sealants called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) accumulate in the sediments of stormwater ponds. The legislature in 2009 required Minnesota state agencies to stop using coal-tar formulations. Since then the MPCA has been working with cities and retailers to encourage switching to asphalt-based sealants, which contain much lower levels of PAHs compared to coal-tar formulations.
PAHs can be harmful to human health at sufficient concentrations, and some are classified as carcinogenic by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Research by the United States Geological Survey, the MPCA, and other agencies has found that the chemicals wash off pavement treated with coal-tar sealants, and then accumulate in the sediments of stormwater ponds and wetlands. Cities must maintain stormwater ponds by dredging them, and if the PAH concentrations in the dredged material are high enough, disposal can be very costly. Some Minnesota cities have passed ordinances banning the use of coal-tar sealants.
Jet-Black has provided both coal-tar- and asphalt-based sealants to its franchise owners for years but after 2012 will provide only asphalt-based products. Jet-Black has 82 franchises in the United States.
“This company is one of the larger in the sealcoating business, so their switch to asphalt-based products represents a big step forward for protection of human health and the environment,” Aasen said.