I was intrigued by the Register article, "What lies beneath?" A former coal/gas factory of the 1800s located on West Water Street between Lawrence and McDonough streets turned coal into gas and produced coal tar as a byproduct. The coal tar was buried on the premises but has been seeping into the Deep Water Marina for the past 30 years and possibly endangering fish and boaters who come in contact with it. Since it's difficult to determine whether the coal tar was buried in the sewage pipe or the tar well dipping below the bedrock, the city commissioners have voted to drill into the bedrock to determine the extent of the problem before developing the Deep Water Marina in the Paper District.
I commend their action to examine the hidden leak beneath despite economic pressures because 5 percent of crude coal tar is carcinogenic. Eating food or drinking water with high levels of coal tar creosote can cause burning in the mouth and stomach pains. In contact with the skin, it produces a severe irritation of the skin, chemical burns on eyes, convulsions and even death. In tests with rodents where there was continuous applications on the skin, the animals developed cancerous skin lesions.
On a positive note, having a source of coal tar in the neighborhood could turn out to be a blessing, not a curse, if we can refine it or sell it to be refined. Coal tar, which is obtained by the destructive distillation of coal or wood, can be used in the synthesis of such products as dyes, drugs,explosives, perfumes and medicated shampoos for psoriasis, dandruff, head lice and the residual remaining pitch can be used for paving, roofing, waterproofing and insulation.
Let's go ahead with the drilling and reap the benefits of a hidden natural resource. Coal tar in small amounts between 0.5 and five percent is perfectly safe and has been part of mainstream America for the past75 years.