By TONI ELLINGTON
On December 19, 2014, the EPA announced its final rule for coal ash, which provides that it will regulate coal ash as a solid waste, rather than a hazardous waste. In other words, coal ash will be treated like regular garbage. This was considered a win for the coal industry, since controls on hazardous waste are more stringent than solid waste.
Coal ash is the byproduct which is left over when coal is burned. Coal-burning power plants generate large quantities of coal ash, which must then be disposed of. The coal industry recycles coal ash for building and agricultural uses.
Opponents and environmental groups claim that coal ash contains toxic chemicals such as arsenic, boron, cadmium, mercury, lead and selenium. These chemicals allegedly can cause cancers along with developmental disorders, reproductive problems, respiratory problems, and asthma. They claim it contaminates water sources and kills fish and wildlife.
Power companies sometimes dump coal ash in the form of slurry, which is a thin mud, in impoundments. In 2008, the dam to a coal ash impoundment in Kingston, Tennessee, collapsed, contaminating thousands of acres and necessitating a $1.2 billion cleanup. Other pollution incidents and spills occurred at Little Blue Run, West Virginia in 2012, and at the Dan River in North Carolina in 2014. In 2011, tons of coal ash were swept into Lake Michigan. Some power plants have started to move away from wet coal ash disposal.
For more information, contact Toni Ellington at (504) 599-8500.