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Clean water advocates will try again to ban toxic driveway sealants

James River.jpg
The James River Association
The James River Association says certain sealants leak toxic chemicals into Virginia waters.

When road crews seal pavement, they have a choice. They can use a substance high in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and at the James River Foundation Anna Killius says those carcinogenic chemicals will – eventually – end up in our water and our homes.

“When those PAHs leach out of the sealant or the sealant breaks down, that can really damage the ecosystem and harm animals in the water, or if that pavement sealant becomes dust and grit and ends up in nearby households it could potentially be harmful to the families in those households.”

But road crews can also use something safer.

“There are cost-competitive alternatives being used across the country -- asphalt-based pavement sealants, and these have 1,000 times less PAH than the high PAH-level sealants.”

That’s why state Delegate Kathy Tran has introduced a bill to ban the dangerous stuff. A similar measure failed in the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee last year, but Killius hopes more lawmakers, consumers and small businesses now understand that making the switch will be easy and worth doing.

“When localities make the switch, you see a dramatic change. The city of Austin, for example, saw a significant drop in PAH levels in their streams in just a few years.," she says.

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief