Living in this community with constant roofing tar fumes felt like Russian roulette; never knowing which house was next and how far away the source of the fumes would be from our home was a constant source of anxiety for me.
Just looking around our general area, homes still in need of a new roof was my own home, the home across the street, the one to the right of me and several directly behind our house in addition to nearly 100 others within the community.
I was fair about it and only filed complaints with the Air Quality District on days when the roofing tar fumes were actually bothering me and keeping Elise and I inside or forcing us to leave.
I had received some great advice from my local Sierra Club and American Lung Association; after which I began handing out flyers with the headline “What’s that Smell?” that gave information about the fumes, the alternative roofing method, and who to call to make a complaint themselves.
Since I was only one person, I had to limit the placement of flyers to the homes around a roof being tarred, which amounted to about three to four roofs per week. I would go out at night while my husband watched our daughter and quietly place a flyer on their doors without a word.
It wasn’t long before I saw some important looking men standing on the roof of the leasing office like the kings of their domain, and then later received a call from my contact at the Air Quality District informing me that the corporate office had decided to halt the project until the spring of 2009 until they could get an asphalt kettle with an afterburner in the hopes that doing so would reduce fumes and appease their anonymous complainant: Me.
I also found out later that residents were calling the leasing office to complaint about the fumes after they read the flyers, which may or may not have played an important role in getting the project halted.
Also, around the same time, another one of my letters paid off when I received a phone call from Luis Garcia-Bakarich from The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Technical Assistance Service for Communities (TASC) program which set in motion a process to help evaluate asphalt using help from technical experts such as environmental engineers and scientists from private companies. This much needed gift resulted in a report and a presentation to the community in January of 2009.
After I’d had a bit of success and thought I had some time to gather help and advice, three more roofs were tarred before the project was officially halted in September, 2008.
My friends over at the Clean Air Revival’s Burning Issues Forum encouraged me to go out there and get footage of the roofs actually being tarred.
Having done so proved to be a very good visual for others to understand the circumstances that we were living in and would continue to live through for one more year if I wasn’t successful in stopping this project and convincing the corporate office to use the alternative roofing method.