New law bans coal tar sealers in Suffolk County

The Suffolk County Legislature on Tuesday approved a ban on the sale of coal tar sealers used on driveways and parking lots within the county.

Presiding Officer William Lindsay, who sponsored the bill, said the sealer is polluting surface waters and is harmful to humans because it contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, a known carcinogen. The new law also bans the use of the sealers.

“There is a reason why Home Depot and Lowe’s have banned the sale of this substance nationwide and that is because they know the potential liability they face in selling such a toxic substance,” Mr. Lindsay said in a statement, adding that Texas and Minnesota have also banned the sale and use coal tar sealers.

Prior to the vote at the Legislature’s meeting in Hauppauge Tuesday, Mr. Lindsay agreed to revise the bill to exempt a chemical called “creosote,” which is a derivative of coal tar used to waterproof docks.

The bill passed 11-6-0-1, with Legislators Ed Romaine, Tom Muratore, Tom Cilmi, John Kennedy and Lynne Nowick opposing. Legislator Vivian Viloria-Fisher was not present for the vote.

Mr. Romaine, who represents eastern Long Island, said he isn’t convinced that an asphalt sealer, which is the proposed alternative, is safer than a coal tar sealer.

“The alternative was an inferior product that would require more sealant to be used over the years that probably would be more damaging to the environment,” Mr. Romaine said.  “I’m pro-environment, but before I damage and wipe out an industry I want to make sure there’s compelling evidence, which I feel wasn’t made.”

During the public portion of the meeting, Anne LeHuray, executive director of Virginia-based Pavement Coatings Technology Council, also said she opposed the bill because she believes coal tar sealers have been “safely used for decades.”

“A ban wouldn’t address any problems that are known — it would only address problems that people can imagine,” Ms. LeHuray said. “A ban would only harm dozens of small businesses resulting in hundreds of lost jobs.”

The new law will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2012.  A $500 fine will be issued for an initial offense and a $700 will be issued for any subsequent violation, according to county documents.

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