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DC Coal Tar Ban Nearing a Half Million Square Feet of Cleaned Parking Lots, Less Toxic Chemicals in Environment

Last week we tweeted out the following good news story from the District of Columbia's Department of the Environment, but sometimes a t...

Last week we tweeted out the following good news story from the District of Columbia's Department of the Environment, but sometimes a tweet just doesn't do some things justice!

Like this. This quiet, heroic effort has done so much to demonstrate positive pollution prevention. It is worth repeating that a coal tar sealer ban is no different than any other legislation--it is only as good as the enforcement that accompanies it. Many recognized when DC passed their ban that the enforcement would be more difficult than either Austin's or Madison's because of the greater population density and multiple jurisdictions along the East Coast compared to central Texas or Wisconsin. And with the amount of remediated lots nearing a half million square feet, they are clearly following through with enforcement!

That is a far cry from the first lot of its kind completed in Austin in 2009 as shown below. Congrats to the DC DOE!
Remediation of coal tar sealant bans often entails shotblasting of the coal tar off of the asphalt surface.
Removed Chemicals Equivalent to One Million Gallons of Used Motor Oil

Washington, DC – The District Department of the Environment (DDOE) announced today that 

436,271 square feet of coal tar pavement sealant has been remediated from 13 privately-owned
parking lots as a result of its enforcement actions under the District’s ban on coal tar pavement 

Coal tar pavement sealants contain extremely high levels of toxic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are harmful to humans and animals. The remediated sealant contains the same amount of PAHs as approximately one million gallons of used motor oil, one of the most concentrated sources of PAHs in the urban environment.

“The remediation of these sites is necessary to protect the District’s communities and water bodies,” said DDOE Director Keith A. Anderson. “Over time, traffic wears pavement sealant into toxic dust that can be tracked into homes or carried by stormwater into our local waterways. This threatens aquatic life in the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.”

The toxic sealant on most of the lots was removed with shot blast machines, which use steel shot to pulverize the sealant layer. The machines were equipped with vacuums and high-efficiency air filters to prevent ambient dust release. Effective removal of the coal tar sealant on one lot was achieved by permanently encapsulating the sealant with a new layer of pavement and monitoring the site to prevent the release of PAHs into the environment.

Since the ban took effect on July 1, 2009, DDOE has conducted extensive outreach to licensed contractors, property owners, property managers, pavement sealant distributors, and industry trade groups in order to prevent violations of the law.

For more information on the coal tar ban, visit

CONTACT: Donna Henry (DDOE) 202.299.3338;


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Coal Tar Free America: DC Coal Tar Ban Nearing a Half Million Square Feet of Cleaned Parking Lots, Less Toxic Chemicals in Environment
DC Coal Tar Ban Nearing a Half Million Square Feet of Cleaned Parking Lots, Less Toxic Chemicals in Environment
Coal Tar Free America
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