DATE POSTED: Thursday, January 2, 2014 11:19 AM EST
by David Kilby, Special Writer

BORDENTOWN TOWNSHIP — While citing examples of the dangers of coal tar, which can be found in some asphalt sealant products, the Bordentown Township Environmental Commission asked the Township Committee to ban the use of such products.

Roger Plew, chairman of the commission, told the committee at the Dec. 26 meeting that coal tar can cause cancer and is detrimental to wildlife, especially since it often drains into waterways.

The committee passed a resolution to send a letter to the governor asking the state to ban coal tar products.

”There’s a lot of alternatives out there right now,” Mr. Plew said. “In fact, Loews and Home Depot do not sell asphalt sealant that contains coal tar. It’s getting banned every day by different municipalities,” such as Austin, Texas and Washington, D.C.

He said one of the objections people may have is that there have been no water tests to prove that coal tar does cause damage, but added that such tests just distinguish good water from bad water and don’t look at what makes the water bad.
”There’s been no lab testing to identify the chemicals,” he said. “Also, we want to stop a problem before we have it. I highly recommend that you consider an ordinance that would ban any asphalt sealant with coal tar.”

He directed the committee to studies that show the damage that coal tar can cause, but committee members mentioned that they had trouble accessing the studies.

One study by Baylor University was used as a reliable reference, however, Mayor Jim Cann noted.

Dean Buhrer, public works director, said the township doesn’t use any products containing coal tar, and knows of viable, cost-effective alternatives.
He confirmed it would not be a cost burden to residents if the township banned coal tar products, adding, “this is a no-brainer.”

Mr. Plew explained that the biggest concern would be finding a way to get commercial contractors to comply, but the committee assured that the township’s application process for commercial development would provide adequate screening.

Committeeman Karl Feltes recommended pushing for state legislation, saying the township may tell people not to use coal tar and then have no means to determine the difference between it and some other chemical, since the color of alternatives is the same.

Deputy Mayor Jill Popko, liaison to the commission, strongly supported Mr. Plew.

”This is a highly toxic product that people are putting down on their properties,” she said.

Another objection people had was that the township shouldn’t ban use of coal tar on private residential property such as driveways, and the mayor confirmed that an ordinance would not ban private residential use.

Mayor Cann also mentioned that if they’re going to ban coal tar products, the township has to make it clear that the product is banned by posting a notification on the township website, and wherever else it is feasible.

Mr. Plew said it’s also important to educate the public about the dangers of coal tar.