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San Antonio City Council Bans Use of Coal Tar Sealant Citywide

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Joey Palacios
/
Texas Public Radio
Business owner Jim Craven addresses the city council Thursday speaking against the ban.

San Antonio has become the largest city in the country to ban the use of coal tar for construction projects.  The City Council debate pitted public safety against business concerns.

Coal tar is often used as a sealant to increase the longevity of driveways or parking lots. But Doug Melnick, the city’s chief sustainability officer, says chemicals in coal tar including polyaromatic hydrocarbons are carcinogens.

“It impacts our biodiversity. It gets flushed into our waterways through storm water events, bio-accumulates through the ecosystem into fish and birds and those fish could possibly be consumed by our citizens.”

Melnick says city staff looked at 80 studies on coal tar, and the only ones that denied harmful effects were conducted by the construction industry.

Anne Lehuray, executive director of the Pavement Coatings Technology Council, says that research is incorrect.  She says developers use coal tar because it can be applied during cold weather when others can’t.

“So, the continuity of the business in terms of keeping their people from season to season will be impacted and people will only be working nine to 10 months out of the year.”

Councilman Ron Nirenberg was among council members who voted 9-2 to ban coal tar .

“The same way we’ve taken lead paint out of schools, we’re taking coal tar out of pavements.”

Councilmen Joe Krier and Mike Gallagher voted against the ban. Gallagher says it will hurt small businesses.

“We’re not even looking at the damage that we’re going to cause small businesses in this community.”

The ban goes into effect in January with fines that could reach $2,000 dollars a day.