Dec 26, 2023
Only the Paranoid Survive
BY Sandy Lender
I’m willing to bet this has been the title of an editor’s note from me at some other point in the past 25 years. Let’s walk down Memory Lane together for a second. Back in 1998, Entrepreneur Bill Neeley owned a publication for which I was promoted to editor. He turned me on to a book titled Only the Paranoid Survive by Andrew Groves. I happen to have that book on a shelf in my den to this day and it’s a mantra for me.
Fast forward to the Nov. 29, 2023, announcement by The Washington Post that three chemical manufacturers—DuPont, the Chemours Co. and Corteva Inc.—are required to pay $110 million in a settlement to the state of Ohio for environmental damages resulting from Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in West Virginia. Yes, it’s complex. But it relates tangentially to the asphalt industry in the second of the allegations mentioned in the settlement.
The Post writes that the settlement “also resolves claims relating to the manufacture and sale of PFAS-containing products and claims related to firefighting foam containing PFAS.”
The firefighting foam mentioned in the lawsuit and settlement has been known to be used in fire training exercises, where the chemicals have—allegedly—found their way into paved surfaces. Consider also the use of firefighting foam at the scenes of accidents on roadways, and regulatory agencies are champing at the bit to imply downstream harm for milling subcontractors.
Think about it. If something harmful is in the surface layer of the pavement and you mill it up and take it to the stockpile at your facility, what happens to the harmful chemical compound? The answer’s currently up for debate, but contractors and material suppliers can safeguard themselves as innocent actors in the PFAS debacle. Jorge Caspary, senior principal at Montrose Environmental, will discuss that exact topic in our Fireside Chat at the National Pavement Expo (NPE) this month.
AsphaltPro-sponsored Fireside Chat with Jorge Caspary of Montrose Environmental takes place Wed., Jan. 24, from 4-5 p.m. on the exhibit hall floor. Use code MIPMEN100P to register for free at nationalpavementexpo.com.
True to its nature, the asphalt industry isn’t standing quietly by when there’s an opportunity to help solve an environmental problem—even though our industry had no hand in creating it.
The last time I operated a milling machine, the industry hadn’t yet come up with the robust systems for suppressing silica dust that we have today. Of course, the cold planer possessed a watering system—the drum was rotating all those teeth against an unforgiving surface, after all. But the more complex concept of directing dust via airflow and collecting the microparticles of silica in filters had yet to become a point of concern. Members of the asphalt industry from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and contractors proactively teamed up to figure out the best way to protect workers from a potential hazard prior to its governmental regulation.
We, as an industry, were proactive in protecting the health of workers and bystanders.
We, as an industry, have an opportunity again in the litigious environment surrounding the probability of PFAS in specific airport (and formerly burned) pavements. Let’s chat about it in Tampa. I look forward to seeing you there!
P.S There’s an “intro to PFAS” video from the Washington State Department of Health that takes only 3 ½ minutes of your time.