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City of Springfield Environment News Releases

Posted on: June 13, 2017

Community Involvement Committee hears recommendations for reducing the use of coal tar sealants

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

City Council’s Community Involvement Committee (Mayor Pro Tem Jan Fisk, Zone 2 Councilman Tom Prater, Zone 1 Councilwoman Phyllis Ferguson and General Seat D Richard Ollis) met Tuesday, June 13 to hear additional information about the use of coal tar-based sealants (CTBS). The Committee approved recommendations for a program that takes a two-pronged approach to the voluntary reduction of CTBS in the community.

Coal tar-based sealants contain large amounts of PAH compounds, which can impact aquatic life in area streams. Several Springfield area streams are listed by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources as “impaired” due to high levels of PAHs in the stream sediment. These stream impairments represent some of the largest potential unfunded environmental mandates facing our community. If new regulations persist, the City could be required to provide additional funding to address these impairments.

The meeting was a follow-up to one convened in January, in which committee members requested that City staff develop a proposal for reducing the use of CTBS in the community. The Committee asked staff to consider the impact to businesses that apply sealant products as well as the business who use sealants on their parking lots. The committee also asked that the proposal include an education component and method of monitoring success.

The Committee agreed with recommendations by the Assistant Director of Environmental Services Errin Kemper to develop a program to voluntarily reduce the use of CTBS by 25% over a 5 year period. The program would include two components: an educational campaign and a program to provide recognition to businesses and neighborhoods who make a voluntary commitment to not use Coal Tar Based Sealants. City staff will develop an informational packet that will educate the public on the water quality impacts of using CTBS and outline information regarding sealant alternatives. They would also develop a program to recognize businesses and institutions who voluntarily choose not to use CTBS when sealing their parking lots.

Background

City Council’s Community Involvement committee convened Jan. 24 to hear testimony about the use of coal tar-based sealants (CTBS). The topic has been debated in the community since 2009. The issue was brought forward to a Council committee at the request of Councilman Craig Hosmer.

Kemper previously presented findings from the department’s recent Sustainable Return on Investment (SROI) analysis of the probable benefit-to-cost ratios of CTBS reduction. CTBS contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs),a group of chemicals that are present in products made from fossil fuels, such as coal-tar pitch, creosote and asphalt. According to national scientific research, significant levels of PAHs are harmful to living organisms in streams.

Sealcoat is the liquid sprayed or painted on many asphalt parking lots, driveways and playgrounds to protect and enhance the appearance of the underlying asphalt. Coal tar based sealants have extremely high concentrations of PAHs and are typically 20-35% coal tar. Asphalt and asphalt-based sealcoat products have much lower concentrations of PAHs.

Kemper reported that studies by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and others have identified coal-tar-based pavement sealcoat as a major source of PAH contamination in urban and suburban areas and a potential concern for threat to human health and aquatic life.

Several Springfield area streams are listed by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources as “impaired” due to high levels of PAHs in the stream sediment. These stream impairments represent some of the more significant unfunded environmental mandates facing our community. If new regulations persist, the City could be required to provide additional funding to address these impairments.

In response to the numerous unfunded environmental mandates facing our community, the City, County, and City Utilities are currently developing a comprehensive Integrated Plan for the Environment which seeks to prioritize environmental investments in the region based on finding the most cost effective solution, to address the most significant sources of pollution, in places that matter most to our community, and in a way that is affordable to our citizens.

One component of the Integrated Plan is to develop an approach that can be used to compare different environmental solutions to ensure that the community is maximizing the environmental benefit of each dollar spent. This SROI process was used to evaluate pilot Integrated Planning Opportunities, including the reduction of CTBS in order to reduce PAHs in the environment. Results from that analysis helped form the recommendations brought forward.

For more information on coal tar-based sealants visit springfieldmo.gov/coal-tar-sealants.

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City Council Actions concerning Coal Tar Based Sealants:

2009 – The Environmental Advisory Board provided recommendation to City Council

2009 – The issue was referred to the Community Involvement Committee

2010- Council proposes a bill (2010-316) that does not pass

2010 – City institutes an internal policy to stop using CTBS on City-owned property

2010 – City commissions OEWRI to conduct a study

2012 – OEWRI study completed

2014 – EAB provides additional recommendation to City Council.

Jan. 2017 – Community Involvement Committee hears testimony on environmental impacts of CTBS and reduction options

 

For more information, contact Cora Scott, Director of Public Information & Civic Engagement, at 417-380-3352 or cscott@springfieldmo.gov or Errin Kemper, assistant director of Environmental Services at ekemper@springfieldmo.gov.

View more information on CTBS.
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