Editor's note: The following is a story of how one community worked to find a better alternative to coal tar sealers in their neighborhood. It isn't a product endorsement, but another example of a better way of doing pavement preservation as we have highlighted before. This article originally was published in the DuPage Sierran, a newsletter of the DuPage (Illinois) Chapter of the Sierra Club.
The Little Community that Could!
Finding a safe sealant and other best practices for a greener community
I am a long-time active member and citizen lobbyist of our Sierra Club. I am committed to loving, protecting, and caring for our planet. While being an advocate of our planet is a significant part of my life, I am sharing our story because I am also a mother, grandmother, and recently a great-grandmother who believes that we are guardians of the future and that good change occurs with hard work, tenacity, and our passion to stay the course.
I live in Cinnamon Glen Townhome Community in Aurora. Our townhome community was built around 1988 in response to the 1973 Oil Embargo. Our townhomes have a unique construction style and are quite energy efficient, resulting in much lower than average utility costs. My serendipitous moment occurred in 1996 when I found myself looking for an energy-efficient home where wildlife would abound. I found my home, and the real perk was that it bordered a DuPage County Forest Preserve and a series of wetlands. Over the years, we as a community have come together to work toward keeping these natural areas clean and protected. Though I often work globally, the local connection happened in 2012 when I was elected and became a board member of our Homeowners Association. At the same time, our other board members who were also advocates for the environment were elected. This was a major positive turning point for the “Little Community That Could.”
We had much work ahead of us; infrastructure was crumbling. As we began our investigation of ways to maintain our driveways, we all had already attended a class on storm-water management and were aware of the studies that show how coaltar driveway sealant is a hidden menace and an unsuspected threat to the health of our children, pets, wildlife, and aquatic organisms. Studies show that dust from coal tar, a known human carcinogen, is being tracked into our homes, and storm water runoff laden with sediment and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) can contaminate our watershed, wetlands, rivers, lakes, and detention basins. While asphalt is a safer alternative than coal tar, PAH is still present. Recently we discovered we can do better than that and that there are other non-PAH alternatives.
While traditional asphalt sealants are somewhat less expensive and safer, they are not without flaw. They contain smaller amounts of PAH but still contain carcinogens, cause skin irritations, and foster dependence on foreign oil.
After three years of research of many different so-called safe products on the market, we recently celebrated the first stage of conversion to what appears to be a safe, non-petroleum-based product called BioSeal/ Biorestor. This pavement-rejuvenating sealant is made from 100% soy bio-based agricultural oil processed and made in the United States.
We have just completed use of this sealant process on 24 of our driveways, and are very pleased with the product. Our goal is the completion of all 144 of our driveways, drive-throughs, and courts, which will be done in stages.
We continue moving forward toward a clean and green community. Some of our other best practices that we have implemented include organic lawn Sierra Club, River Prairie Group of DuPage County 9 care. Our lawn service company now uses bag-less mulching mowers so that clippings are returned to the turf rather than being carted away. We do not use sodium chloride; we use calcium chloride during rare and severe ice storms only, and we provide deicer that is safe for humans, pets, and the environment to each family. We are in the process of changing the community-governing documents to allow rain barrels, drought-resistant native plantings, and rain gardens where needed. Many of our townhomes overlook the natural areas, and light pollution has been an ongoing issue. Our current project is replacing old lighting on the rear of townhomes with lighting that is approved by the International Dark Sky Association. While we are far from where we would like to be, we have come a long way.
And that is the story—so far—of “The Little Community that Could”! For more information, visit www. biosealusa.com/what-is-bioseal.php.