Wednesday, July 19, 2023


 O.K. I grant you I did receive an e-mail from the MECP last Friday, late afternoon. I responded the next morning at 10:33 am. I passed along a question from local resident and CPAC member Rich Clausi. I also requested that the already prepared lab soil analysis alleging benzene contamination be sent to CPAC. Four days later and Nada. Nothing. Not even an acknowledgement of my very pleasant and complimentary e-mail.  No response or acknowledgement from the MECP, Region of Waterloo or any Woolwich councillors to date. Now yes the media are showing some interest which is a good thing. 

I suppose that the biggest issue I've found to date is a lack of reports or studies suggesting that long buried coal tar paving (macadam) is any kind of environmental problem at all. Conversely it seems that the modern asphalt used for road surfacing may very well be an environmental problem. Isn't that both weird and scary in that modern asphalt literally covers 99% or more of our roads nowadays? Now some of the studies do indicate greater concentrations of PAHs (polycyclic hydrocarbons) in coal tar paving (macadam) versus modern asphalt paving. The key is whether or not these chemicals and others (eg. benzene) are leaching from the old macadam into the environment. My understanding is that there really is only a tiny amount in North America of coal tar paving still at surface and in use as roads as asphalt has completely replaced macadam over the past decades.

The many on-line reports and studies I've read, as stated here yesterday, indicate that the problem is actually coal tar sealing of the surface of asphalt driveways and parking lots. Highways to the best of my knowledge are not routinely sealed using any kind of sealer whether coal tar based or asphalt based. Thank goodness! Now modern asphalt does indeed have lots of nasties in it including VOCs (volatile organics) and PAHs although the concentrations of PAHs are indeed much lower than those found in coal tar paving (i.e. macadam). Therefore I would not be terribly surprised if a coal tar (macadam) covered roadway, exposed particularly to the summer's heat, especially in the southern U.S., produced much greater and more toxic fumes than the usual asphalt roadways. That said many articles do state that toxic fumes are emitted from asphalt highways during hot, summer days. 

The issue here in Elmira is long buried coal tar paving (macadam) not a current, exposed at surface macadam roadway. By the way there is evidence that old, buried asphalt paving (NOT coal tar based), especially in a wet environment (swamps etc.), will indeed leach toxic chemicals. Therefore what and why exactly is the Region of Waterloo concerned about? They should seriously be lobbying the provincial government to ban the sale of coal tar based driveway and parking lot sealants. Suggesting that long buried coal tar paving (macadam) is an environmental threat needs to be backed up with some studies and reports don't you think?   

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