Coal Combustion Waste

Coal ash and other coal combustion wastes are one of the largest waste streams in the United States. Re-use of coal ash has, with active support of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency turned into a multi-billion dollar business that provides a huge subsidy to coal-fired power-plants.

Each year, the coal industry generates over 136 million tons of wastes from burning coal in the form of fly ash, bottom ash, boiler slag, and flue gas desulfurization gypsum. Nearly half—60 million tons—are re-used with little or no oversight or analysis of environmental impact in everything from concrete to cosmetics, despite a growing body of scientific research indicating that these coal combustion wastes ? containing arsenic, chromium, selenium, thallium, lead, mercury and other contaminants ? are alarmingly toxic and will reach our waters, air and soil.

The contents of coal combustion wastes are also changing, as improvements to air pollution controls mean more toxics like mercury are removed from the air emissions and will instead leave the power plants in the waste and pollution control residue.

Following the disastrous Tennessee coal sludge spill in December 2008, EPA has belatedly undertaken a weak effort to possibly regulate coal ash going to disposal as a hazardous waste. The main industry concern about regulating coal sludge ponds as hazardous is the "stigmatizing effect" that would have on the growing coal ash market. To save its coal ash market, industry will obstruct sane regulation. Prevent coal ash pollution by taking action.