Hodges Creek Fish Kill

Hodges Creek Fish Kill

Cross-posted from Upper Watauga Riverkeeper

Dead fish found in Hodges Creek, Boone NCDead fish found in Hodges Creek, Boone NC

Over the weekend of July 17, polluted runoff from the BB&T parking lot on Highway 105 in Boone, NC killed all life in a 1.5 mile long stretch of Hodge’s Creek. Watuaga Riverkeeper, Donna Lisenby investigated the incident on Saturday evening. NC Department of Water Quality officials did not arrive to investigate the site until Monday morning, two days and two more rain storms later.

Here is the video Donna made, documenting her investigation, and surveying the damage.

The cause of the fish kill was determined to be a coal-tar based asphalt sealant applied by Sunshine Striping Asphalt and Seal Coat of Pine Hall NC. We could find no record of this company being licensed or bonded in North Carolina, or being licensed as a general contractor.  Eye witnesses report seeing the sealant being applied in the rain. This asphalt sealant is water soluble, so in the rain it just washed off the parking lot and straight into the creek, killing everything in it.

The material data safety sheet (MSDS) for Asphalt Based Pavement Sealer reads:

SECTION VII—SPILL OR LEAK PROCEDURES SARA TITLE III: #302: No #304 CERCLA: No #313: No Steps to be Taken in Case Material is Released or Spilled: Ventilate the area. Wear approved respiratory protection. Wear suitable protective clothing, gloves, and eye/face protection. Coal Tar Driveway Sealer is a marine pollutant and should be placarded as such when transported in bulk over sea or large bodies of water. Coal Tar Driveway Sealer will harm waterlife and should be prevented from entering any body of water. Dispose of in accordance with federal, state and local regulations.

Coal tar, which would be listed as a ‘hazardous waste,’ were it not for a special federal exemption, contains benzoapyrene.  Benzoapyrene is dangerous chemical that made EPA’s list of 12 priority “persistent bioaccumulative toxins.” Still, coal tar is being applied to asphalt across the country, and concerns are growing that toxins from the product are being tracked into homes, schools, hospitals and other buildings.

Check out the following presentation from Austin that more fully explains how coal tar sealants harm our environment.

The city of Austin, TX banned the product almost 5 years ago, when it was recognized to be damaging the local ecosystem. More recently a few other cities, including Washington, D.C., have followed suit.  Overwhelmingly, though, the product remains unregulated, exacting unmeasured costs on cities and ecosystems (like Boone and Hodge’s creek) across the country. Not only is this stuff toxic, but there are cheap, far less toxic petroleum based alternatives, so there is no real reason to use this stuff at all.

Now that the toxic effects of coal-tar based sealants has been made abundantly clear to the people of Boone, we are working to promote a ban of coal-tar based asphalt sealants in the town of Boone, with the hope that other surrounding towns and counties will follow suit.

Click here to check out a story in the Watauga Democrat’s about Hodge’s Creek accident.

Click here to see photos of the Riverkeeper Team doing an aquatic life assessment on Hodge’s Creek with the Division of Water Quality.

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Hodges Creek Fish Kill

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