Golden Valley, Maple Grove Sue Chemical Refiners
Golden Valley and Maple Grove are two of seven Minnesota cities that are suing a group of chemical companies.
They allege that a black sealant, also known as coal tar, has contaminated stormwater ponds. Coal tar is used on playgrounds, parking lots and driveways. Water becomes polluted when particles in coal tar called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) get washed or blown into the storm ponds.
According to the multimillion dollar lawsuit, the cities claim they should not have to pick up the tab for cleaning up the water.
“The cities have the responsibility,” said Dan Shulman, an attorney from Gray Plant Mooty representing the cities. “The question is who’s going to pay. That’s what the lawsuit’s about. Should it be the wrongdoer who should bear the burden of the violation and the uncertainty? Or should it be the taxpayers who had no reason know that this was going to happen?”
Coal Tar Cleanup Costly
Cities are required by Minnesota law to test for PAHs before dredging their ponds. There are hundreds of stormwater ponds in most cities. If PAHs wind up in ponds, cleanup costs skyrocket.
“The coal tar companies were well aware of the constituents and contaminants in their products,” said Ken Ashfeld, Maple Grove’s city engineer. “They still made a business decision to market them and their use by consumers, residents of the various cities, unknowing that this material will be creating this problem within our storm water ponds.”
Another problem with coal tar is that sediment must go into a landfill after being removed, said Ashfeld. It can’t be used or reused and that adds to the tab, he said.