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Whitehurst said his company started offering the Black Diamond product a year ago, with about 90 percent of his business consisting of coal tar sealant and 10 percent the new alternative. He said business quickly turned to about 50/50 use. Now, he said about 90 percent of his customers have Black Diamond sealant applied, with about 10 percent requesting coal tar based sealant.

"People have said they like the look of the Black Diamond," he said. "Coal tar has a bit of a blue hue, and darkens up over a week or so. Black Diamond is jet black the day you put it down. It also doesn't have the same smell as coal tar. It has very little odor."

In terms of asphalt emulsion for petroleum-based sealcoat, he said the price is expensive for what he believes is a subpar product.

Whitehurst said the company will still apply asphalt-based sealcoat, but will only do it on larger speculative projects. Likewise, he said some customers specifically request coal tar-based products even though others are available.

"We are doing the federal reserve bank in Detroit in a couple of weeks. They specifically asked us to use coal tar," he said.

Whitehurst said the decision to switch to the petroleum-based alternative for most projects was based on the quality of the product, the look and lack of odor. Further, he said, the product doesn't have a benzene additive that coal tar sealants have, which causes a irritating rash, similar to a sunburn.

"We started applying it last year," he said. "After we saw how it lasted through the winter, we were confident we could sell it and get similar results to coal tar."

Steve Erdodi, owner of Tuff Coat Sealcoating, in Waterford, said his company has switched to an asphalt emulsion, or petroleum-based sealcoat, rather than using the new alternative or traditional coal tar sealants.

In order to add to the durability of the petroleum-based sealcoat, he said the product he uses has polymer additives, which increase the durability. The switch, he said, required a new storage facility at his business, which resulted in an investment of about $30,000.

"It's not easily available locally, so we ordered a new storage tank and have a delivery that is made for us," Erdodi said. "It's a real commitment."

Erdodi said the product is different than Black Diamond, in that it has a lower PAH level, and believes it would be available to use in communities like Ann Arbor or Van Buren. He said his main reason for switching products was out of concern for health and the environment.

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