Annapolis prohibits use of asphalt and pavement products containing coal tar

Annapolis Alderman Jared Littmann sponsored the bill to prohibit coal tar sealant products in the city.

The use of coal tar sealant products is no longer allowed in Annapolis.

The City Council passed legislation Monday that prohibits the use of products for asphalt or concrete surfaces that contain coal tar or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Primarily this affects asphalt driveway owners who use the sealants to protect those driveways from cracks and other wear.


Officials say those business and home owners can use latex-based sealants as an alternative.

This covers both public and private use of the products. Use of coal tar products comes with fines and requires the offender to fix the surface containing the offending product.


Sponsors of the bill said they proposed the legislation at the behest of the Annapolis Environmental Commission, which requested the change for health and environmental reasons. The Back Creek Conservancy brought the issue to the commission.

"It's for the health effects," said Paul Murphy, commission chairman. "It's an example of another product that people have learned has a long-term lasting effect."

Cities and states across the U.S. have been banning coal tar sealants as some studies have shown it can lead to an elevated cancer risk. Anne Arundel County already banned those products and the Annapolis legislation is modeled after the county's.

The chemicals in the coal tar eventually wear and break down into particles that are washed into nearby water, blown around by the wind and even tracked into homes, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

A 2012 U.S. Geological Survey study found coal tar sealants elevate lifetime cancer risks, cause environmental damage and reduce air quality.

The pavement and asphalt industries have disagreed with these assessments, saying in a 2013 USA Today story that the studies are not definitive proof.

Maryland has been sensitive to the concerns of runoff from impervious surfaces — areas like parking lots and streets — due to the state's natural resources in the Chesapeake Bay and numerous creeks and rivers. Stormwater runoff flows down over the pavement, dripping chemicals into the state's water ways and the bay.

This sediment and chemical buildup has a harmful effect on wildlife as it smothers oysters and promotes excessive growth of algae. When that algae dies, it sucks the oxygen out of the water, creating what are called dead zones where wildlife can't live or survive.


Federal regulations pressured Maryland and surrounding states to limit the amount of stormwater runoff that finds its way into the water. Former Gov. Martin O'Malley passed legislation that charged a fee for impervious surfaces in an effort to fund new stormwater management projects that would reduce pollutants flowing into the waters.

Gov. Larry Hogan signed a law in 2015 that repealed portions of what was dubbed the "rain tax." He removed the mandate requiring nine of the state's counties and Baltimore to enact the fees. But the counties decided to continue with the fee because they still had to pay for the stormwater management projects.

Alderman Jared Littmann, D-Ward 5, sponsored the bill and said he doesn't believe prohibiting coal tar sealants will have any long-term economic impact on the city.

"(Latex sealants) are effective, economical and available," he said.