Coal Ash ~ Coal Combustion Products (CCPs) or Coal Combustion Residuals (CCRs)
Our Position: The ACC supports the beneficial use and reuse of CCPs as a means of ensuring billions of dollars in economic benefits, supporting the creation and maintenance of hundreds of thousands of jobs across many industries, and multiple environmental benefits, including GHG reductions, reduced water use, and improved energy efficiency.
Environmentalist's claim about coal ash:
American coal plants produce over 100 million tons of “coal ash pollution” every year. Coal ash is the leftover of coal combustion, which contains many toxic chemicals and heavy metals like mercury, lead, selenium, and arsenic. The millions of tons of coal ash that are produced every year are typically deposited in open pits where, over time, those toxic heavy metals can leach into groundwater supplies. If coal ash isn’t left in those ponds, it is re-used in building products like concrete and wallboard where it can break down, exposing people to these dangerous chemicals.
Coal Ash Reality:
Coal ash is, chemically, very similar to the dirt in your back yard. So, it's worth it to ask if you consider your back yard “toxic”?
Research has shown that, while coal combustion residuals (CCR) like coal ash do contain trace amounts of heavy metals, so does the dirt in your back yard, AND in about the same amounts. The technical way to describe this is,
“With few exceptions constituent concentrations (of heavy metals) in coal ash are below screening levels for residential soils and are similar in concentration to background U.S. soils.” (American Coal magazine, Issue 2, 2012 pg. 38)
In fact, after conducting numerous studies, the EPA stated in 1978, 1993, and 2000 that coal ash did not need to be regulated as a hazardous waste. In 2006, the EPA stated that mercury in coal ash was unlikely to be leached at level of environmental concern. (Refer to www.coalashfacts.org for more information). A 2010 EPA report found that the use of CCPs as fill and contouring material in the construction of the Battlefield Golf Club in Chesapeake, VA had no impact on adjacent residential wells and ground water. The report also noted that no adverse health effects are expected from exposure to surface water or sediments on the site and the site was not added to the EPAs national priority list of sites where hazardous materials could impact health or the environment.
Furthermore, earlier this year, the EPA “encouraged” the beneficial use (recycling) of coal ash in building products like concrete, grout, and wallboard as a valuable means of replacing and conserving “virgin raw materials.” EPA’s website goes on to state that recycling CCR’s “can produce positive environmental, economic, and performance benefits.”
Further CCP information
- Fly Ash ~ What is it?
- Ash Use ~ Yesterday and today
- How fly ash works
- An environmental windfall
- What will it take to use more?
- Other resources