coal ash contains lead, arsenic and mercury — and it’s mostly unregulated - oil spill containment

by:Demi     2019-09-13
coal ash contains lead, arsenic and mercury — and it’s mostly unregulated  -  oil spill containment
The article was originally on Massive.
When the tanker ran aground off the coast of Alaska in 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil spill made headlines.
There are 8 million gallons of crude oil in a few days.
Since then, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has eclipsed it.
But it also pales in comparison to the coal ash leak at the Kingston Fossil Plant in 2008.
At about one o'clock A. M. on December 22, 2008, a coal wall broke.
Power plants outside Kingston, TN and 1.
1 billion gallons of ash spill over the nearby rivers and surrounding land.
Equivalent to 1,660 Olympic Games
Pool of toxic waste size.
The ash is 6 feet deep and covers an area of about 300 acres.
Although you may not have heard of it, it is 100 times the size of the Exxon Valdez leak.
Coal itself is not a particularly toxic substance.
But after burning, the remains of the Ashes include lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, arsenic and selenium, all of which may threaten human health.
This is not a problem limited to Tennessee: since the beginning of 1900, coal burning has been an important source of power in the United States, so it has accumulated volcanic ash for more than a century.
The latest data on ash stocks are from 2014;
That year alone, the United States produced 0. 13 billion tons of coal ash.
From this perspective, this is about half of the entire human population on Earth.
Some of them can be reused with benefit
We can put it in a landfill or store it near a power plant, not in concrete, or use it as a filler in things like roads and dams.
For example, using ash in concrete locks heavy metals and makes the concrete stronger.
In fact, however, it can be used effectively, which is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA (EPA)
Label it as hazardous waste.
Hazardous waste labeling puts the federal government in charge of the way materials are handled.
Industry insiders believe that hazardous waste labeling will make it more difficult to recover coal ash and ensure it stays in landfill sites.
But now, for the foreseeable future, states can dispose of ash at will, leading to spills and infiltration into groundwater.
There are more than 1,000 active coal-fired ash storage sites in the United States, and so far there are no legal requirements for container liner or leak detection systems.
Usually, catastrophic containment failures
Like the Kingston leak and the Dan River leak in NC Eden a few years later --
Occurs after cracks in the pond walls or major pipe breaks.
However, there is also a risk of unlined basins or poorly managed landfill sites, which can lead to slow contamination penetration and a source of long-term contamination
Disease and environmental damage.
According to the EPA's 2007 report, coal ash leaked heavily contaminated groundwater in 67 towns in 26 states in early 2000.
But this number may be lower
Report: normally, utilities with volcanic ash storage sites do not need to monitor groundwater.
Because monitoring is not required, it is difficult to know exactly how big the problem is.
Overall, it seems like a clear solution is needed for this situation: regulation.
For decades, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been approaching the regulation of coal-fired ash, but has been falling due to industry pressure.
But in December 2014, the EPA finally solved the hazards of coal ash in a landmark legislation called coal combustion residues (CCR)Rule.
The rule determines the location and design requirements of the storage facility.
For example, it is forbidden to set up ash pools near the top or wetland or seismic belt.
Under this rule, existing ponds need to have Composite liners and monitor groundwater conditions, and new ponds need to have systems for collecting and removing water.
There are also many other structures and safety assessments, and annual or weekly requirements have also been introduced.
While expensive, these regulations are simple, designed to protect the public by protecting groundwater from pollution.
Most environmental groups say the rule is far from enough.
As a researcher at the Georgia Institute of Technology National Science Foundation for Environmental Engineering, I would love to see what industry members think about themselves.
I got the opportunity very quickly: in the summer of 2016, I attended the executive meeting of utility companies.
The mood for regulation is barely accepted --
"Well, here we are, let's make the most of it.
"In fact, it seems that most of the people in the utilities I talk to seem grateful to have this regulation.
"The uncertainty of regulation is finally over, and this uncertainty hinders the beneficial use of coal ash," said Thomas H . "
Adams, executive director of the American volcanic ash Association, said in a 2014 statement shortly after the EPA released the standards.
Recycling and Reuse as an environmental person is usually music for me. (
And the reuse of coal ash is not a joke.
For every ton of ash used instead of traditional cement, we prevent one ton of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere).
Of course, the reuse of coal ash is not always possible.
Even beneficial.
After a golf course in Chesapeake, Virginia, 1 was used.
Just two years after 5 million tons of coal ash was used as a filler, it was found to have resulted in a high level of lead and arsenic in groundwater.
Similarly, when a playground on pine trees uses coal ash as a filler, the level of groundwater pollution is so severe that the EPA designated it as a Superfund website in 2012.
So there's an ongoing question: how do we do this recycling while it's safe, and that seems like a step towards answering that question.
It seems like a win-win situation as a scientist.
Win: this will help businesses feel safe in their research to re-utilize ash.
This will help researchers keep learning safe ways to reuse ash while protecting communities that store it.
But all this was before Trump was elected.
Under Trump's director of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, the agency's policies have changed dramatically, moving from a climate change approach to a more common approach --
Pollution regulations.
Prut has withdrawn regulations on clean water rules, clean power plans, emission standards for cars
Unfortunately, there is coal ash.
In March 2018, the EPA proposed more than a dozen changes, weakening the residual value rule for coal combustion.
States can decide on the use of "alternative standards" for contaminants and decide when and whether groundwater monitoring is required and what remedial actions, if any, should be taken ).
In an official EPA press release, Pruitt said: "Today's volcanic ash proposal embodies EPA's commitment to our state partners, providing them with the ability to incorporate flexibility. . .
According to the needs of their country.
"The potential health consequences of the rollback have not been discussed, but EPA does point out that this amendment will save the utilities 32 million to $100 million in annual compliance costs.
The key to making coal ash safe for recycling is to find a way to lock in its toxic elements.
Like concrete, the products that transform coal-fired ash are doing very well;
Heavy metals are "wrapped" into the concrete matrix.
Even if concrete is crushed, heavy metals cannot be reached.
These toxins are not encapsulated, just as when coal-fired ash is used as a filler, they remain loose and penetrate into the water.
The concrete made of coal ash is stronger, has less water permeability and requires less water.
But it's hard to deal with because the composition of the ash is highly variable --
Imagine trying to make a cookie recipe, but it's not the same every time when you go to buy flour!
My lab at Georgia Tech is working on this dilemma and trying new ways to lock in toxins.
But while we seek scientific answers, Ash also faces fundamental political challenges. The roll-
Support the CCR role to once again place waste in areas of regulatory uncertainty.
It is clear, however, that the health of the community and the environment depends on our solutions.
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