Pavement Sealcoat, PAHs, and Water Quality of Urban Water Bodies: An Overview

Monday, 15 December 2014
Barbara J Mahler1, Peter C Van Metre1, Christopher Ingersoll2, James L Kunz2, Aude Kienzler3, Alain Devaux4 and Sylvie Bony4, (1)U.S. Geological Survey, Austin, TX, United States, (2)USGS Columbia Environmental Research Center, Columbia, MO, United States, (3)Universite de Lyon, Lyon, France, (4)Ecole Nationale des Travaux Publics de l'Etat, Vaulx-en-Velin, France
Coal-tar-based (CT) sealcoat is used to protect and beautify the asphalt pavement of driveways and parking lots primarily in the central, southern, and northeastern U.S. and in Canada. CT sealcoat typically is 20 to 35 percent crude coal tar or coal-tar pitch and contains from 50,000 to 100,000 mg/kg PAHs, about 1,000 times more than asphalt-based (AS) sealcoat or asphalt itself. Tires and snowplows abrade the friable sealcoat surface into fine particles—PAH concentrations in fine particles (dust) from CT-sealcoated pavement are about 1,000 times higher than in dust from AS-sealcoated pavement (median total PAH concentrations 2,200 and 2.1 mg/kg, respectively). Use of CT sealcoat has several implications for urban streams and lakes. Source apportionment modeling has indicated that, in regions where CT sealcoat is prevalent, particles from sealcoated pavement are contributing the majority of the PAHs to recently deposited lake sediment, with implications for ecological health. Acute 2-d toxicity of runoff from CT-sealcoated pavement to stream biota, demonstrated for a cladoceran (Ceriodaphnia dubia) and fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas), continues for samples collected as long as weeks or months following sealcoat application. Using the fish-liver cell line RGL-W1, runoff collected as much as 36 days following CT-sealcoat application has been demonstrated to cause DNA damage and impair DNA repair capacity. These results demonstrate that CT runoff is a potential hazard to aquatic ecosystems for at least several weeks after sealant application, and that exposure to sunlight can enhance toxicity and genetic damage. Recent research has provided direct evidence that restricting use of CT sealcoat in a watershed can lead to a substantial reduction in PAH concentrations in receiving water bodies.