REGISTER VIEWPOINT: Coal tar's out in the open; can't just be 'left alone'

You let the cat out of the bag, it's not so easy to get it back in. Same with the coal tar stuck in the ground all these deca
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

You let the cat out of the bag, it's not so easy to get it back in.

Same with the coal tar stuck in the ground all these decades, between the Sandusky Bay shore and the location of the old coal gas plant between McDonough and Lawrence Streets, west of downtown in the "Paper District" development area.

A city-commissioned study suggests it can be fenced in. A couple other consultants say the problem -- and the coal tar -- goes deeper than that.

Meanwhile, boaters in Deep Water Marina, where the coal tar meets the bay, have known about it for years, because they've been scraping it off their boats.

City Commissioner Bob Warner wants to go with the city-funded study and pretty much leave things alone -- there's bad stuff under ground all over town, he says, including his own back yard. It's not going to be pristine it's not reasonable to expect it to be so, he said.

We wish it were that simple.

Because the fact is, now that the coal tar and speculation about it has been made public, at a public meeting, in front of the public -- no developer is going to touch that property until the problem -- or at least the responsibility for it -- is cleared up.

That means finding a way to clean it up or render it harmless and finding the money to pay for that process -- whether the city pays or someone else determned to have legal responsibility for the land pays. If the experience of other so-called "brownfield" sites -- land with long-standing pollution problems -- is any guide, that's going to be a mess that rivals what's underground.

But now it has to be done.

No use crying about spilled coal tar now.