- New rules set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for coal ash disposal will open up service and disposal opportunities for the solid waste industry, writes Anne Germain, director of waste and recycling technology for the National Waste & Recycling Association, for Waste 360.
- The Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals from Electric Utilities, published on April 17 in the Federal Register, provides new rules for coal ash management in response to a large spill in Kingston, TN in 2008. An ash dike at the Tennessee Valley Authority power plant ruptured, sending more than 5 million cubic yards of coal ash slurry into the Emory and Clinch rivers, damaging homes, roads, and utilities.
- There is available landfill capacity, NWRA points out, leading to opportunities for both the coal ash industry and the solid waste industry to work together to solve disposal issues. Alternatives can be developed for beneficial use of coal ash without having to change existing infrastructure. Also, smaller facilities could use disposal management services rather than develop it internally.
The waste and recycling industry has the expertise to handle coal ash waste particularly, Germain points out, with respect to landfills. The American Coal Ash Association reports that 115 million tons of material was produced in 2013, with slightly more than half requiring disposal, and the remainder reused for material such as cement and plasterboard.
EPA's proposed changes require landfills receiving the coal ash to be equipped, experienced, and prepared to manage it in a safe manner. Coal ash will be subject to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act’s (RCRA) Subtitle D requirements governing municipal solid waste.
Germain writes, "In order to protect groundwater or surface water from coal ash, utilities are beginning the journey to comply with the new rules and the public will be safer as a result."