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Board supports coal tar sealant ban

Monday, October 31, 2005 by

Ban would begin January 1 if Council approves ordinance

A new city ordinance that would ban the use of coal-tar based pavement sealants on roads and parking lots passed its first hurdle last week, as the city’s Environmental Board voted unanimously to recommend the proposed ordinance.

The measure, proposed by Council Member and former Environmental Board Chair Lee Leffingwell, would ban the use of coal-tar based sealants within the Austin city limits and its extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ). Studies by the city’s Watershed Protection and Development Review Department (WPDR) indicate that such sealants are a major source of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), a pollutant and known carcinogen, in Austin’s urban creeks.

WPDR’s Nancy McClintock told board members that the ordinance is a major step in protecting the city’s water quality.

“This ordinance is an unprecedented opportunity to protect our watershed,” she said. “It is a fabulous opportunity to do something in an expedient manner to protect these streams. There is ample evidence to support the ban.”

The ordinance, which would go into effect on January 1, calls for fines of between $500 and $2,000 per violation, per day. Initially, enforcement would be initiated through the WPDR complaint process, according to city staff, but would eventually be included in the city’s code enforcement activities as well.

One exception that would allow the sale of coal-tar based sealants in Austin would be for use outside the city and it’s ETJ. Merchants would be required to keep paperwork on all such sales, and staff would periodically audit its sale and use.

WPDR staff began investigating parking lot sealants as a source for PAHs in 2002, and in June of this year issued a report to the Mayor and City Council completed by WPDR staff and the U.S. Geological Survey that positively identified coal-tar based parking lot sealants as a “significant” source of PAH pollution in Austin’s urban streams. (See In Fact Daily, June 23, 2005).

The findings of that study were published in the August 2005 edition of the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

McClintock told board members that WPDR staff has talked with a number of stakeholders, including retail outlets, manufacturers of the sealants and construction companies who use the product. All have said that switching to asphalt based sealants will not present a financial hardship on their operations.

McClintock estimates that about 600,000 gallons of sealants are used annually in the Austin area, with 90 percent being coal-tar based. The city’s study shows that runoff from parking lots treated with coal-tar based sealants is six times greater than those treated with asphalt based sealants.

Data also shows that from 1960 to 2000, the levels of PAHs in Town Lake—where most of the urban streams drain—increased dramatically from 0.4 parts per million (ppm) to 8.5 ppm.

Environmental Board members voted 8-0 to recommend the ordinance, with Vice Chair Karin Ascot absent. The ordinance is next scheduled for a hearing before the Planning Commission on November 8, and to the City Council on November 17.

For those Travis County voters who intend to take advantage of early voting before Friday, here’s a quick rundown of the issues in the upcoming $150 million bond election.

The bond ballot is broken down into three parts: a $65.2 million proposition for road, drainage and right-of-way projects; a $62.2 million proposal on parks and open space; and $23.5 million for renovations to the county jail. If all three options were to pass, debt would be issued out over six years, with the impact on the average tax bill varying by year, with a high of $12.28 in Fiscal Year 2009.

Proposition 1, which covers the roads and drainage projects, is unusual because it will give the county the option to both expand roads and enter public-private partnerships to extend roadways. The proposition also deals with two low water crossings, funds to acquire right-of-way for four state farm-to-market roads and two drainage projects.

Road projects to be built or improved would be Howard Lane, between Dessau and Cameron roads; the low water crossing on Kimbro/Parsons Road; Gattis School Road, from County Road 122 to east of Forest Creek Estates; replacing one of the bridges on Jesse Bohls Road; Hamilton Pool Road, between RM 12 and the Pedernales River; and Reimers-Peacock Road between Hamilton Pool Road and SH 71.

The proposition also names Tier I and Tier II candidate road projects for public-private partnerships. Candidate projects include the extension of Howard Lane, Pecan Street and Decker Lake roads out to SH 130; Wells Branch Parkway between Boulder Ridge subdivision and Cameron Road; Braker and Parmer Lanes near US 290; and Slaughter Lane from Bluff Springs to McKinney Falls Parkway. The Tier II project candidate is Braker Lane from FM 973 to Taylor Lane.

The right-of-way acquisition would be related to FM 1431, FM 1626, FM 1826 and FM 2244. Road-related drainage projects are planned for Imperial Valley Drive and Caldwell Lane.

County commissioners incorporated an open space proposal from the citizens’ bond advisory committee into Proposition 2. Bonds would cover additional phases at East Metro, Northeast Metro and Southeast Metro parks, as well as acquisition of land at Reimers Ranch for Southwest Metro Park. The Reimers Ranch acquisition has been popular with many area hikers and rock climbers. Open space acquisition also would include open land in southwest Travis County and on Onion Creek.

Flood-related land acquisition also falls under this proposition. The county intends to acquire property in the area of Twin Creeks Arroyo Doble, Thoroughbred Farms, Timber Creek subdivisions, as well as along Quiette Drive on Walnut Creek.

Proposition 3 is the improvements to the county jail. The proposition would expand jail space, construct a central chiller and remodel certain areas of the jail.

Early and mobile voting continues through Friday. Election day is November 8.

©2005 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Time change for Review Panel . . . Today's meeting of the APD Citizen Review Panel, which will look into the fatal shooting of Daniel Rocha, will begin at 4pm, earlier that initially scheduled. (See In Fact Daily, Oct. 28, 2005). Some community leaders, including PODER leader Susanna Almanza, had criticized the city for scheduling the hearing on a family holiday. The meeting will allow the panel to receive public input prior to making its recommendation to Police Chief Stan Knee about the resolution of the administrative investigation of the case. City officials say the change was made to accommodate concerns about the meeting conflicting with Halloween activities. However, they said that postponing the hearing to a later date might not give officials time to act on the panel's recommendations. The meeting will be in Council Chambers at Austin City Hall. If an individual is available to speak at the meeting, that person must sign up from 3 to 6pm at City Hall. Written comments may also be submitted.. . . Intellectual property discussion . . . Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a member of the U.S. Senate's Intellectual Property Subcommittee and the High Tech Task Force, will join government officials, high tech leaders and legal scholars at 9am this morning for an in-depth panel discussion on protecting intellectual property. Other participants include U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, and U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio). Other participants include Prof. Ronald Mann, University of Texas Law School; Geoff Tudor, CEO of LEOTERRA; Steve Papermaster, CEO of PowerShift; and Sue Snyder, Executive Legal Counsel for Advanced Micro Devices. The panel will hold its discussion at the UT Law School's Eidman Courtroom . . . Politics runs in the family . . . Not only is House District 47 candidate J ason Earle the son of longtime Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, his campaign manager is also a member of a political family. Ian Davis, Earle's campaign manager, is married to Amy Everhart. Everhart managed the successful City Council campaign of Jennifer Kim and now serves as executive assistant to the Place 3 Council member . . . Early Voting . . . Early voting for the November 8 Constitutional Amendment Election continued over the weekend. Some 24,669 voters have cast early ballots, about 4.6 percent of Travis County's registered voters. Early voting continues through Friday . . . Aquifer Board warns of drought . . . The Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District has declared that the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer is in a Stage 1 Drought, the lowest level of alert. The warning is based on recent data collected from the district's monitoring wells and other regional information. Declaration of a Stage I Drought tells permit holders to begin cutting back water use, with a goal of 10 percent voluntary reduction in usage . . . Doggett to announce grant . . . Congressman Lloyd Doggett will announce today that the Austin area will receive a nearly $1 million federal grant to promote community programs and initiatives that improve learning readiness in young children. The Early Learning Opportunities Grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be administered by a coalition of community organizations led by the Success by 6 Leadership Council. Ceremonies are planned for 9am in the Waterloo conference room, at United Way Capital Area, 2000 East MLK Jr. Blvd . . . Hounds need homes, too . . . The Town Lake Animal Shelter is collecting new and gently-used dog houses to help the owners of pets in the community that don't have proper shelter for the animals. With winter coming on, many animals are exposed to the elements. Animal Control Officers will pass on pet houses to owners who cannot afford proper shelter for their pets. To donate a dog house (preferably the insulated plastic type), bring it to the Town Lake Animal Center at 1156 West Cesar Chavez.

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