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Montgomery County Officials Move To Ban Potentially Hazardous Pavement Sealant

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A bill that could ban the use and sale of coal tar and other chemicals as pavement sealant received mixed reactions from legislators and businessmen during a public hearing in Montgomery County Wednesday.

Bill 21-12, which is sponsored by Montgomery County Council member Craig Rice (District 2), is also known as "The Coal Tar Bill" in reference to the compound which is widely used as a road surface sealant. It would ban sealants that contain potentially hazardous polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, known as PAHs. These compounds, such as the coal tar pitch used to make the sealant, are classified by the EPA as possible human carcinogens.

"Just because a product has something in it that isn't proven to do anything wrong, on its merit ... and you're getting ready to ban it? Not a good idea," said Mike Lehman, president of Total Asphalt, a distributor of Coal Tar Based sealant, during the public hearing on the bill Tuesday.

In 2011, elevated levels of PAH were discovered in sediment in Lake Whetstone in Montgomery Village, and nearby in Gunner's lake.

Of the four people who testified at the hearings only Bob Hoyt, director of Montgomery County's Department of Environmental Protection, spoke in support of the measure.

"PAH in the sendiments that we are finding are not at the levels that present an immediate human health risk, but they do present environmental problems and substantially increase the cost of managing the sediment after it's dredged," said Hoyt.

The proposed ban could also have an impact on the possible future construction of a large gas station and Costco store in Wheaton. The bill will go before the council's transportation and environment committee July 26.

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