javascript:; Highlights of First Great Lakes Sealant Reduction Webinar | Coal Tar Free America

Cleaning up all of their stormwater basins, like this one, could
cost Inver Grove Heights, MN as much as $27 million.
This week marked the first in a series of webinars hosted by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) which included important new information about the progress being made with sealant applicators, health-related effects from coal tar sealants and the cost implications polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) contaminated sediment for one Minnesota community.

Quite a broad cross-section of stakeholders were online for the webinar.  Registrants were from 25 states, Canada, Guam and the District of Columbia.  They represented state, local, federal and tribal units of government, industry, applicators, school officials and environmental groups.  Copies of the presentations are available here with audio portions expected to be added the first week of November.

Al Innes of the MPCA is the project manager of this USEPA's Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant with collaborators from the University of Wisconsin-Extension Solid and Hazardous Waste Education Center and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  Through the grant, the MPCA has reached out to manufacturers, suppliers, retailers, contractors, and large sealant consumers to gauge their willingness to stop applying coal tar sealcoats.

A website has been developed that includes a list of current bans across the US, contractors who have committed not to use coal tar, and alternative product information as shown below.  One measure of the success of this effort is that over 113 applicators in 6 states have pledged to no longer use coal tar containing sealant products.  In Minnesota this translates to an estimated 30% of the applicators have committed to no longer use coal tar sealers.

Dr. Barbara Mahler presented USGS' research into the effects of coal tar sealers on the environment and human health.  This was an overview of the coal tar pollution science which contained familiar information for some, but the following graph is something that was appreciated.  It squarely addressed a common sealant industry myth about PAHs.  It goes something like this: "There are more PAHs in a grilled hamburger than a whole parking lot of coal tar sealers."  The below graph shows just the opposite.  Dietary consumption of a normal American diet would only add 1/5 of the most potent of PAHs amount when compared to the expected incidental ingestion of coal tar contaminated by house dust exposure.

Tom Kaldunski, City Engineer for Inver Grove Heights, completed the presentation portion of the webinar by discussing the costs of cleaning stormwater ponds and disposing of the PAH contaminated sediment.  The costs will continue for the community even though it passed a ban back in 2011.  We have reported these staggering costs before: the cost of cleaning up just 10% of the municipally-owned stormwater ponds in the greater Minneapolis area would be about $1 billion.

But Mr. Kaldunski extrapolated this cost per pond to the private ponds in his community as well. These are owned or managed by condominium associations or homeowner associations.  The estimated cost for private ponds is $6 million and the total community cost is about $27 million after adding the $21 million for the public ponds!  For a community of just 34,000 people, that is a cost of about $800 per man, woman and child in the Inver Grove Heights.  Clearly the continued use of this product is not economically or environmentally sustainable.

Another interesting fact from this presentation was the cost of testing each pond was $3400.  This could be dramatically reduced by the testing and application of a modified use of the "coffee-tea" test for coal tar sealant.  We have done successful trials with dried sediment to determine the general PAH level, but a more robust amount testing is necessary to verify the repeatability and reliability of this low-cost testing method.  Contact me if you would like to learn more about this.

The following future seminars are scheduled:

#2 Organizing a state- or provincial-scale coal tar reduction program . . Wednesday, November 20th from 9:30 - 10:30 Central >>Register at

#3 Outreach education for coal tar phase-out action at the local level . . Thursday, December 12th from 9:30 - 10:30 Central >>Register at

All presentations and some question time are planned to fit in these 1-hour time blocks, followed by an additional 30 minutes of Q&A for those with the time available.

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