News 8 (Austin, Tex.)
December 30, 2005


By Allison Toepperwein

It's taken three years, but in just a few days a common coal tar
sealant will no longer be legal in Austin.

"We've been in contact with the industry, the retailers, local
retailers, manufacturers and applicators of coal tar sealants, almost
the whole time we've been working on this. So, they're well aware of
the ban and the implications of the ban," City of Austin Biologist
Mateo Scoggins said.

The ban of the sealant, Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH), that's
used in many parking lots throughout the city came after it was linked
to contamination in Barton Creek. The cancer-causing chemical was
found in runoff from the parking lots near the creek.

Come Jan. 1 it will be illegal to buy or sell the sealant in the city.
Customers will have a paper trail for retailers who continue to sell
the product.

"To sell it now, is going to be a little more involved than just
ringing it up," Environmental Compliance Specialist Tom Bashara said.

Beginning Jan. 1 it will be illegal to buy or sell sealant containing
the chemican PAH in Austin.

The city hopes this will discourage retailers from even carrying it.

"We're hoping over the long-term, 10 years, we'll start to see
significant changes in the amounts of PAHs in our streams," Scoggins

For the next year, the city will only investigate on a complaint
basis. If you already have coal tar sealant, you're grandfathered in.

"This will be rolled into the existing enforcement program that we
already have for water quality violations for the city," Environmental
Compliance Specialist Eric Kaufman said.

Staff will go out to the parking lot, and paint vegetable oil on part
of the lot.

If it's coal tar, the illumination from a black light will pick up a
bright fluorescent yellow color.

"Similar color, but totally different fluoresce," Bashara said.

And if it's fluorescent, you better be prepared for an investigation.

"A parking lot we'd look for topical signs, leaves, cigarette butts.
If it's immaculately clean, stripes are brand new and fresh, we start
asking for receipts," Bashara said.

It's a process this eco-friendly city hopes catches on.

"We're the first ones to look at this product. The first ones to
actually pass a ban on it. We're hoping that other cities will join
us," Bashara said.

The Village of Bee Cave, which has been a frequent flashpoint for
growth controversies, was a step ahead of the city of Austin, having
banned coal tar sealants on parking lots in July of 2004.

Copyright 2005 TWEAN News Channel of Austin, L.P.