Industry News

WEF/USGS Sponsor Congressional Briefing On Parking Lot Sealants And Toxic Pollution In Urban Streams And Their Impacts To Aquatic Life

Recent studies by the U.S. Geological Survey's (USGS) National Water-Quality Assessment have identified sealcoating -- the black, shiny surface often applied to asphalt pavement -- as a significant and previously unrecognized source of extremely elevated concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in streams (see "Study: Parking Lot Sealant Identified as Major Contaminant"). In one instance, runoff from parking lots sealed with a type of coal-tar-based sealant had PAH concentrations of 65 times higher than concentrations from unsealed parking lots.

In response, the Water Environment Federation (WEF), in cooperation with USGS, announced on Nov. 14 that it is sponsoring a congressional briefing on Dec. 2 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in Room 2318 of the Rayburn House Office Building to further discuss these findings and their implications to local and federal policy.

PAHs are suspected human carcinogens and are toxic to aquatic life. Biological studies conducted by the city of Austin, Texas, found a loss of species and decreased numbers of organisms at the PAH concentrations seen in Austin streams. Officials observed these effects at sites downstream from the points where sealed parking lot runoff enters the streams. Because sealants are used nationwide, and the concentrations of PAHs in lakes and reservoirs across the country are increasing, this information raises important local and national policy questions about the use of sealants and methods to prevent contaminated runoff from reaching urban water bodies. The city of Austin Council is currently considering a ban on the use of coal-tar sealants.

Speakers for the briefing include:

  • Peter Van Metre, USGS scientist: USGS findings on PAH concentrations in sealcoat runoff and trends of PAH contamination in urban areas nationwide.
  • Mateo Scoggins, biologist, city of Austin Watershed Protection and Development Review Department: Austin's findings on how sealant impacts on aquatic life.
  • Representatives from EPA and the city of Austin: Available to answer questions and provide a context for discussion of policy issues.

The briefing is open to the public and free-of-charge. For more information, please contact Pat Sinicropi at (703) 684-2416 or

Irrigation Association, EPA Join Forces To Encourage Water Efficiency

The Irrigation Association and EPA agreed on Nov. 7 to join forces to promote efficient water-use among irrigation system providers and consumers.

Potential areas of cooperation include raising awareness among irrigation consumers of the role certification, training and efficient technology can play in conserving water while maintaining healthy landscapes.

"The Irrigation Association's primary goal has been to advance efficient irrigation technology and techniques within the industry," said IA Executive Director Tom Kimmell. "This agreement will help us bring that message to the end users who make decisions about purchasing and managing irrigation systems."

EPA has been exploring the role efficient technology, training and certification for irrigation professionals, including the IA's certification program, can play in advancing water efficiency, which is a high priority for the agency.

"This partnership is a significant step forward to promote an ethic of water conservation," said Assistant Administrator for Water Ben Grumbles. "Approximately one-quarter of non-agricultural water use in the United States is for watering lawns and gardens of homes and businesses. Watering efficiently can help consumers' pocketbooks while also helping to conserve our water resources."

Additional information on the Irrigation Association (including tips for consumers), can be found at

Partnership Sets California Friendly As State Standard For Water Saving Goals In Green Building Program

California Friendly landscapes, products and practices that save at least 20,000 gallons of water per year in new homes will become the definitive residential green building standard throughout the state under a new partnership announced on Nov. 4 between the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) and the California Building Industry Association (CBIA).

A cornerstone of CBIA's voluntary California Green Builder Program will be the use of several California Friendly water-saving features developed by Metropolitan, including landscaping featuring smart, sustainable design, plants that are right for the climate and state-of-the-art irrigation systems. Homebuilders that install the latest water-saving devices and practices will reduce water use in new homes by at least 12 percent.

"We are excited to partner with the Green Builder Program to set a new standard for water efficiency in new homes," said Metropolitan board Chairman Wes Bannister about the MWD/CBIA partnership.

In addition to water savings, the California Green Builder program includes energy-efficiency standards that are 15 percent above Title 24 requirements.

The partnership with the California Green Builder program marks the first statewide adoption of the water-related green building standards developed by Metropolitan for its pilot California Friendly model home program. Launched in 2002, the pilot program was created by Metropolitan in partnership with local water agencies, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and in collaboration with the Building Industry Association of Southern California.

Additional information on California Friendly homes can be accessed at More information on MWD can be found at

This article originally appeared in the 11/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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