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Local contractor advocates for statewide coal tar-based sealant ban

Jay's Asphalt Maintenance is among businesses using asphalt emulsion as a safer alternative.
Published: Aug. 14, 2020 at 5:52 PM CDT
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BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - We first reported in December 2019 about a city-wide ban in Green Bay against the application of coal tar-based sealants.

State lawmakers considered legislation for a statewide ban of those same products earlier this year. A bill passed unanimously in the Assembly but never received a vote in the Senate because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Every summer, our newsroom gets tips from viewers targeted by fraudulent contractors promising driveway repairs at a low cost.

“If you’re getting quotes from driveway sealers, especially if they’re knocking on doors, make sure you know what kind of product they’re using,” said Patrick DeJardin of Jay’s Asphalt Maintenance.

DeJardin says scammers often choose to use sealants made or blended with coal tar.

“A lot of coal tars have a shiny sheen,” said DeJardin. “They have a big odor you’d smell for weeks. That’s one of their dead giveaways.”

The sealants are filled with toxic chemicals known to increase the risk of cancer and developmental problems in children while also polluting waterways and killing wildlife.

“Science has developed asphalt emulsion products to be just as superior to coal tar,” said DeJardin. “It’s similar to the old days, lead and asbestos, which have been rotated out when new products are brought in, and that’s kind of the time frame we’re looking at now.”

Legislation banning sealants with more than 0.1-percent of coal tar in Wisconsin came to a halt last session. Individual communities pass their own bans, but change at the state level still needs approval from the Senate.

Senator Robert Cowles (R-Allouez) introduced the bill he says was on the brink of passing. The senator tells Action 2 News the future of a coal tar-based sealant ban is uncertain because of the pandemic, but he believes it still might happen if and when lawmakers go back into session.

“As contractors, it is our responsibility to look forward to future America and to try to rotate this product out,” said DeJardin.

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