by: Mike Petchenik Updated:
SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. - Plans to patch cracks in one Sandy Springs neighborhood have some homeowners concerned for their health and safety.
They plan to bring those concerns to state lawmakers.
A few weeks ago, neighbors in the Woodcliff Condo complex off Ison Road told Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik they received notice from their property management that crews would be sealing cracks in the parking lot with a coal tar-based sealant, which is made from a distillation of crude coal tar.
Neighbor Tina Campbell told Petchenik she began to research the product to make sure it was safe for her and the other residents and was shocked to find out it was banned in several states and cities nationwide.
"I had no idea,” said Campbell. "It's been banned in the State of Washington, Austin, Texas and Washington, D.C. It's been banned in 24 cities in Minnesota."
Campbell showed Petchenik studies that have linked the sealant to cancer.
“Even once it's on for three to five years, as it breaks down, it has agents in it known as PAHs, which are known human carcinogens,” said Campbell.
Campbell has enlisted support from the past president of a nearby neighborhood called Grogan’s Bluff. Gary Alexander told Petchenik he’s contacted an attorney to see about getting a court order to halt the project, which is scheduled to begin June 3.
"I'm concerned about it. My residents are concerned about it,” said Alexander. “Everyone on the street is concerned about it."
Alexander and Campbell worry that coal–tar particles will seep into a creek bed behind the condos that feeds directly into the Chattahoochee River. The neighborhood also sits across from an elementary school.
“It should be investigated,” said Alexander. “It shouldn't be allowed to be put down."
The engineer overseeing the Woodcliff project spoke to Petchenik by phone and defended use of the product.
“I would use it in my own home,” said Ralph Huie. “I would suggest it could be used at a school. I’m absolutely unconcerned.”
Huie told Petchenik he’s used the product for 30 years and has had no problems with it. Still, he told Petchenik the condo board would consider an alternative, asphalt-based product based on Campbell’s concerns.
“We’re in the helping people business,” he said. “I’m not in the poisoning children and ruining the environment business.”
Campbell forwarded Petchenik an email showing the condo association planned to move forward with the tar-based sealant after “consulting with the authorities,” citing its lower cost and product warranty.
Campbell told Petchenik her fight isn’t just to stop the product from being used in her neighborhood.
"I want to raise a broader awareness now that I know how toxic it is, to get it banned from our city or banned from our state,” she said.
Petchenik reached out to the local distributor of the coal-tar based sealant for comment on Campbell’s concerns, but was told the owner didn’t want to speak to him.
A spokeswoman for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Atlanta office told Petchenik the agency is currently not regulating the product, but acknowledged that several governments have banned it.