Coal Ash Is Hazardous Waste

Coal is…dirty and dangerous when you mine it….when you “prep” it….when you ship it…when you burn it…AND when you dispose of coal ash.

Let’s talk about that last dirty and dangerous step.  Coal ash contains a variety of toxic heavy metals.  And the stuff is piling up at a tremendous rate.  We produced

131 million tons in 2007, up from less than 90 million tons in 1990.

Disposal of toxic coal ash has sparked controversy in Maryland where Constellation seeks a permit to dump in Curtis Bay.

Perhaps you recall the TVA’s huge coal-ash disaster that happened around the winter holidays?  The TVA is spending $1.2 billion to clean it up.  Its plan for disposing of this toxic waste  involves finding a poor and powerless community and dumping it there.  The TVA headed south to Alabama.

Problem is, all the folks in Perry County aren’t as dumb and desperate as TVA hoped.

Some residents worry that their leaders are taking a short-term view, and that their community has been too easily persuaded to take on a wealthier, whiter community’s problem. “Money ain’t worth everything,” said Mary Gibson Holley, 74, a black retired teacher in Uniontown. “In the long run, they ain’t looking about what this could do to the community if something goes wrong.”

In exchange for 30 temporary jobs for local folks and a one-time injection of $3 million into the county budget, Perry County gets to host permanently three million cubic yards of

…coal ash from a power plant [that] has a higher concentration of toxins because mercury, arsenic and other substances that are filtered out by air pollution controls end up in the ash.

And don’t forget the radioactive elements:

when coal is burned into fly ash, uranium and thorium are concentrated at up to 10 times their original levels.  (See Scientific American article.)

Imagine what it would cost to clean up if the federal government did its job and classified this stuff as hazardous waste?

Since the spill in Tennessee, the Environmental Protection Agency has promised to issue new regulations for coal ash, potentially classifying it as a hazardous waste.

That’s what keeps coal executives awake at night.


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One response to “Coal Ash Is Hazardous Waste

  1. Pingback: Where to Dump Coal Ash? « Maryland Energy Report

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