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Coal Ash Finally Regulated—But Not as Hazardous Waste
"In the early morning hours of Dec. 22, 2008, a dike failed at the (TVA) Kingston (coal power) plant [40 miles west Knoxville, Tenn.], unleashing a billion gallons of coal ash that smothered about 300 acres of land," write Rachel Kinney and Kelsey Page of Knoxville-based WBIR TV. As a result of this and subsequent spills, including most recently the Feb. 2 Dan River spill in North Carolina, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finally regulated coal ash, adopting a new rule on Dec. 19, almost four years to the date later.
"This new rule protects communities from coal ash impoundment failures, like the catastrophic Kingston, Tennessee spill, and establishes safeguards to prevent groundwater contamination and air emissions from coal ash disposal," blogs EPA's
In fact, if it was to be classified as hazardous waste, "it would prevent them from recycling coal ash to make it into building materials, like concrete and wallboard," writes Climate Progress reporter, Emily Atkin.
Indeed, the EPA has estimated that approximately 45 percent of all coal ash is currently recycled, whole the rest of it is disposed in ponds and landfills.
But environmentalists have taken issue with the recycling process too, saying the lack of regulation on the reuse process means that many recycling facilities are just “dumpsites in disguise." [See Earthjustice report: "Out of Control: Mounting Damages From Coal Ash Waste Sites, Feb. 24, 2010 (PDF).]
EPA directs readers to learn more about coal ash, "one of the largest types of industrial waste generated in the United States. In 2012, 470 coal-fired electric utilities generated about 110 million tons of coal ash."
Hat tip to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Daily Digest Bulletin