Westwood: MA’s First Municipal Ban of Coal Tar Sealers!

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts joins eight other states and districts with an outright ban of coal tar pavement sealers by a community within its borders! On May 4, 2015 the Town of Westwood, with an appropriate moniker “Committed to Service,” passed the Commonwealth’s first ban of this product.

Westwood (population 14,000) is a picturesque, historic community once listed among the top 20 places to live in the United States. This isn’t the first community of this caliber to ban coal tar. Could it be that great communities, don’t just happen, but require true leadership which looks out for the good of all of its citizens? And banning this product is just a natural outgrowth of what those kind of communities do?

The ban was sort of co-developed alongside a model ordinance in concert with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) and the Neponset River Watershed Association. The MAPC is the regional planning agency serving the people who live and work in the 101 cities and towns of Metropolitan Boston.

Technically only paved surfaces which drain to the MS4 (which stands for municipal separate storm sewer system) are regulated, but federal law defines this to also include ditches, curbs, gutters, storm sewers, and similar means of collecting or conveying runoff that do not connect with a wastewater collection system or treatment plant. Given that definition most of any community would be covered by a ban.

The model ordinance can be found here.

This isn’t the first foray into the regulation of coal tar pavement sealcoats for Massachusetts. We reported on the statewide rules back in 2011, which say that this product is prohibited from use in areas draining to wetlands. There is some more information about this, but will have to wait for a future post.

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