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District Orders Removal of Toxic Coal Tar Sealant From Private Parking Lot

Thursday, October 20, 2011
Banned product a major source of pollution

Banned product a major source of pollution.

(WASHINGTON, DC) -- The District Department of the Environment (DDOE) announced today that a 23,000 square-foot privately-owned parking lot in Northeast DC, contaminated with toxic coal tar pavement, was successfully remediated on Sunday, October 16, 2011.

Remediation of the lot, which drains into the Anacostia River, started on October 11, 2011 after a DDOE inspector issued a Notice of Violation to the property owner and contractor. The remediation process took 2.5 days, but was halted due to rain. The coal tar pavement product was removed with a shot blast machine, which uses steel beebees, or “shot,” to pulverize the sealant layer on the lot. The machine was equipped with a HEPA filter and vacuum to eliminate ambient dust release.

“I’m excited to see the swift and successful remediation of this site,” said DDOE Director Christophe A. G. Tulou. “Keeping highly toxic chemicals away from our local waterways help to ensure the health of our aquatic life as well as the public. That is our #1 priority.”  Director Tulou added that private property owners should always inquire about the products being used on their properties and not to permit contractors to use coal tar pavement products.

Coal tar pavement products are commonly used to seal parking lots and driveways and contain high levels of toxic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).  According to the Comprehensive Stormwater Management Enhancement Amendment Act of 2008, it is illegal to use, permit the use of, sell, or distribute coal tar pavement products in the District of Columbia as of July 1, 2009. 

“This is a huge step towards reducing PAH levels in District waterways,” said Councilmember Mary Cheh who sponsored the coal tar limitations section of the statute. “Eliminating coal tar pavement products is low-hanging fruit in reducing this major source of pollutant. I hope that other jurisdictions see the environmental benefits and follow suit.” The District is the only municipality in the Chesapeake Watershed to ban coal-tar-based sealants.

A 2010 study showed that dust from coal-tar-sealed parking lots contained 530 times more PAHs than dust from parking lots with other surface types.  This dust from coal-tar sealed parking lots contained about 7 times more PAHs than undiluted used motor oil, which has been recognized as having one of the highest PAH concentrations of all urban PAH sources. Rainwater washes these toxic PAH-containing sealant particles and dust down storm drains and into our local streams and rivers, threatening aquatic life in the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.

For more information on the coal tar ban, visit or call the Mayor’s Citywide Call Center at 311.