Area roads not affected by questionable pavement sealant

by Roland D. Hallee

Recent awareness of several motor vehicle crashes on Route 225, in Rome, has prompted the Maine Department of Transportation to suspend the use of an asphalt sealant that has been used. The investigation will focus on the mixture used in the sealant and whether that is the cause of the slippery road conditions. It has been described as resembling the effects of black ice. It is not exclusive to Maine, but has occurred throughout the United States.

“Fogging,” as it is called, is an inexpensive way of slowing the break down of pavement that is commonly used on certain spots or stretches of road.

The material and its use is normally a light application of a diluted asphalt that gets its name from the way it is applied.

The next step in the investigation will be to see if the sealant was properly applied. The company that did the work is Down East Emulsions LLC and applied by SHOem Roadway Services LLC, under the direction of the MDOT.

Locally, it was noticed this past summer that some sort of sealant was applied along the breakdown lanes on Route 3, as it passes through China, because of its shiny, wet-looking surface during dry conditions.

China Town Manager Dennis Heath said, “I do not believe the sealant is part of the process for our roads.” The town contracted for hot-mix asphalt shim and overlay. Heath continued, “As I understand it, the sealant at issue is ‘fogged’ onto the road surface as a low-cost separate application to extend the life of a road’s pavement until it can be repaved.”

Heath also interjected, “Our friends in Ireland can attest to why it is important to slow down on wet roads. The water alone presents the possibility of lost traction, but when mixed with the build-up of oil and tire residue, you have the makings of an oil slick that is treacherous.”

Vassalboro Town Manager Mary Sabins stated, “I am not aware of this sealant problem in our area. I only became aware of it when I saw the story on the news.”

Fairfield Town Manager Michelle Flewelling confirmed that “nothing like this product has been applied by the town of Fairfield in the town of Fairfield.”

However, MDOT has a project on Rte. 201 that starts in Fairfield and goes to Skowhegan. This project was contracted to Pike Industries. The breakdown lanes do appear to have had a similar application.

Flewelling then added, “My public works director did mention that he spun a bit when he attempted to leave the Good Will-Hinckley campus this morning to go back onto Rte. 201.”

According to the three town managers, the sealant in question has not been used on town roads by their respective road crews.

It seems that only state roads have had the sealant applied in various locations.

An email sent to the Maine Department of Transportation was not returned by press time.


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