javascript:; Tonawanda Coke Sentencing Draws Attention to Dangers of Coal Tar | Coal Tar Free America

Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper *
Citizens Campaign for the Environment *
Clean Air Coalition of WNY * 
Coal Tar Free America *


For immediate release: March 20, 2014

For more information, contact:

Brian Smith, CCE, 716-831-3206,
Nicole Lipp, BNRK, 716-852-7483,
Tom Ennis, Coal Tar Free America, 765-327-8499,


Groups call for ban on coal tar sealants as next step to protect public health and environment

Tonawanda, NY— On the heels of the historic sentencing of Tonawanda Coke and its environmental controls manager, elected leaders, environmental groups, and public health advocates are calling for action to address an ongoing source of pollution coming from factories like Tonawanda Coke: coal tar.
Tonawanda Coke was sentenced in federal court for, among other violations, illegally leaving raw coal tar on the ground near the plant. While this was considered a serious violation because it threatened public health and the environment in WNY, it remains legal and common to spread coal tar sealant—a highly carcinogenic refined version of the coal tar found at Tonawanda Coke—onto driveways and school playgrounds throughout the state.

Legislation has been introduced (A. 630A / S. 4381A) to ban coal tar sealants in New York State.

“It is no secret that coal tar-based sealants contain high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are a known carcinogen in humans beings and are lethal to the safety of marine life and other aquatic ecosystems,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF – Manhattan). "PAHs also pose a risk to children as their presence in driveway or house dust endangers children who accidentally ingest them. This is why I introduced legislation, A.630-A, which would prohibit the sale and use of pavement products containing coal tar. There are more environmentally safe alternatives to coal-tar and this sensible legislation would protect both the health of our environment and the safety of our citizens."

“It should come as no surprise that the dirty operations at places like Tonawanda Coke contribute to a very dirty product, said Brian Smith, Program & Communications Director at Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “Coal tar sealants continue to unnecessarily threaten public health and the environment across New York State, and should be banned without delay.”

"A major ongoing source of pollution to our waterways includes surface run-off from roads and parking lots containing PAH's that pose a significant threat to human and ecosystem health," said Jill Jedlicka, Executive Director of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper. "For over a decade our community has invested nearly $100 million to remove PAH's from the Buffalo River and other local waterways, and the continued use of coal tar sealants would undermine that investment and slow our progress towards cleaner water."

“Yesterday’s sentence is an indication of how harmful coal tar is to our communities,” stated Erin Heaney of the Clean Air Coalition, “We need New York State to take action to prevent this substance from being spread into our neighborhoods.”

There is mounting evidence that coal tar pavement sealant – a dark black liquid that is sprayed or painted on top of driveways and parking lots – poses a serious threat to the environment, exposes people to unacceptably high levels of cancer-causing chemicals, and is burdening governments with liability for very expensive cleanups. Washington, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and the District of Columbia, as well as thirty local governments around the nation, have enacted coal tar sealant bans or restrictions. Many leading national retailers (i.e. Lowe’s, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and others) no longer sell coal tar sealants to private homeowners, but instead only carry safer alternatives.

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Anonymous said... March 20, 2014 at 8:05 PM

I think it's a great statement that all those stores pull cancer causing coal tar driveway and parking lot sealants from their shelves, my question to them is why do they continue to allow contractors to spray that nasty smelly ct sealer on their parking lots ? Our family feels exposed to toxins when walking to shop their stores when freshly sealed. I would think the Lowes, SAMs , Home-depot... Would specify a NON - Coal tar sealer must be used by the contractor they hired, so we aren't forced to breath the ct fumes. Have you guys ever inquired about this subject? I read those stores are Eco friendly, can't be double breasted!

Coal Tar Free America said... March 21, 2014 at 10:40 AM

Yes I have inquired to some of the largest big box chains in the US, but without a response. I would complain to the local management.

Here is a prototype for a "coal tar free" parking lot sign. Maybe we can begin to get our favorite businesses to post this.