Ann Arbor Tackles “No Brainer” Coal Tar Sealer Problem

Largest Community in US to Take on High PAH Sealers Too

Ann Arbor, Michigan, well-known as the location of University of Michigan, passed a ban of coal tar pavement sealers tonight along with high PAH sealers. Over a year in the making, the City held their ground against industry lobbying and attempts to discredit scientific research.

In the end, no representatives of industry showed up for the public hearing and vote. Not that it would have mattered (or should it ever): the ordinance passed unanimously and will go into effect in 10 days.

Thanks to the sponsors of the ordinance Councilmembers Sabra Briere and Chip Smith, who shepherded it through subcommittees on the way to the Council. Details of the ordinance and the supporting materials can be found here.

And a ton of credit goes to the Huron River Watershed Council who worked to inform the public as well as decision makers about this problem for close to two years. Not only did they educate, but they went out to the field to investigate potential coal tar sealer pollution hot spots.

A bit of the discussion by Councilmembers focused on the extent of the fine, which is up to $10,000. Why so high some wondered? One staffer said that it mirrors the maximum permitting penalty which the State of Michigan could hold Ann Arbor liable for.

Also with current removal practices, $10,000 may only cover the costs to remove coal tar sealer from about 1/4 of an acre. If the goal is a cleaner environment and not just collecting fines, then owners/contractors should remove sealers which violate the ordinance. And the costs at about $0.75 to $1.25 per square foot could be far exceed $10,000 for a 1/2 acre or more of sealed surface.

The best quote of the night came when the vote was called. Councilmember Julie Grand said that this decision is a “no brainer. This is a toxic chemical which increases cancer rates 38 times.”

If you’ve read much of the content on this site, then you’ll realize we share that same sentiment.

So congratulations to the City of Ann Arbor who again leads their state and the nation in improving the environment for all of us!

Photo Credit: from MGoBlog

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