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Mulberry Firm Goes ‘Green’ With Nontoxic Asphalt Sealer

4 min read

Although her interest in nontoxic, environmentally friendly asphalt seal coating precedes her father’s death from cancer, Martha Moore says that his 2016 demise reinforced her commitment to the product.

Moore is the owner and president of Sealtite of Arklahoma, based in Mulberry and founded in 2012. The company, which employs five, produces asphalt seal coating, used to protect and extend the life of asphalt surfaces like parking lots and playgrounds.

Traditional seal coating is coal tar-based, and coal tar, which is derived from coal, is carcinogenic. Occupational exposure to coal tar or coal-tar pitch increases the risk of skin cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. Other types of cancer, including lung, bladder, kidney and digestive tract cancer, have also been linked to coal tar, the NCI says.

The U.S. Geological Survey notes: “Coal-tar-based pavement sealcoat is a potent source of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) contamination in urban and suburban areas and a potential concern for human health and aquatic life.”

The USGS says that seal coat particles “containing high concentrations of PAHs and related chemicals can be transported by rain, wind, car tires, and even our feet to surrounding areas, including our homes. Concentrations of PAHs in runoff, sediment, soils, and dust near coal-tar-sealcoated pavement are substantially higher than concentrations in those media near concrete pavement, unsealed asphalt pavement, and asphalt pavement with asphalt-based sealcoat.”

Sealtite produces a nontoxic, asphalt-emulsion product, Rhyno-Tite, which Moore discovered at a trade exhibition. The man who manufactured it was located in Missouri, and Moore first signed up as a licensed producer. But when he sought to leave the business, she bought the brand.

Moore also owns McCormick Works, which specializes in asphalt paving, maintenance and repair. The company was started in 1990 by her father, Edward, as a family company. Martha Moore has worked jobs there from roller operator to office manager, becoming president in 1999.

Moore is mid-South director of the newly formed ASMA-USA, the successor to the Asphalt Sealcoat Manufacturing Association. The ASMA and Moore as mid-South director seek to educate people about the hazards of coal tar.

A number of municipalities and government entities have banned coal tar sealants, among them Austin, Texas, and Washington, D.C. States such as Minnesota and Washington have also implemented bans.

The performance of asphalt-emulsion seal coats, compared with coal tar sealers, has improved over the years, Moore said.

In addition, she said, asphalt-emulsion seal coats are not as easily adulterated as coal tar sealers. Some less-than-honest contractors will dilute coal tar sealers, cutting costs but also harming performance, disappointing customers and giving a bad name to the industry.

“People need to learn the difference,” Moore said. “It’s so important. The water runoff from a coal-tar parking lot carries those toxins into the ground, into the air, onto our feet. We walk it into our houses.”

Her awareness of the toxicity of traditional coal tar sealant developed gradually over the years, Moore said, particularly as she annually examined her workers compensation exposures and experience modifiers at McCormick Works.

“We have to have a certain rating of safety to do jobs,” she said. “There are subcontractors that we subcontracted for that require that. And coal tar was the biggest exposure that I had in workers comp injuries.

“People would get it on their skin and it would burn them, breathe it in. I had one person breathe it in, and I had to take him to the ER because he had a reaction to it.

“So year after year, seeing that, I was always concentrating on getting safer supplies and safer gear for the guys to wear. They’d go out there looking like a hazmat team putting a seal coat on a parking lot, and that is an uncomfortable feeling. To me, if you see somebody out there looking like that, what they’re putting on the ground can’t be good.

“It meant so much to me to bring something safer and better to my home environment because my father ended up being one of the unfortunate ones that had that battle” with cancer, Moore said. “You can never really put your finger on it, but if you know you’ve exposed yourself to this carcinogen all this time, it gives me something to fight against. That’s where my passion is.”

Sealtite’s safer coating has been used on parking lots at the Clinton National Airport in Little Rock and on parking lots at the Jacksonville Air Force Base, among other locations.

The company had been averaging about $325,000 in annual revenue during the first year and was experiencing what Moore called “a good uptick” before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. This year’s wet weather has also depressed business, she said. She’s hoping for another good uptick once the weather clears up.

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