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What’s in Coal Ash? The Same Stuff as Dirt…

Anti-coal environmental groups love to rave about “toxin-laden” coal ash, but have you noticed they never explain what that means? That’s because the “toxins” in coal ash are the same ones in your backyard soil – and in similar concentrations.

The American Coal Ash Association recently published a new report analyzing the most up-to-date U.S. Government information available about the constituents of coal ash. The report concludes that the concentrations of metals in coal ash, with few exceptions, are below environmental screening levels for residential soils and are similar in concentration to common dirt.

“Coal Ash Material Safety – A Health Risk-Based Evaluation of USGS Coal Ash Data from Five US Power Plants” uses scientific methods to demonstrate that coal ash does not qualify as a hazardous substance based on its composition and it also should not be classified as hazardous on a human health risk basis. The report was authored by Dr. Lisa Bradley of AECOM.

“Anti-coal environmental activists consistently refer to coal ash as ‘highly toxic’ and ‘hazardous to your health’ with no regard for how those unsupported descriptions damage the environmentally beneficial recycling of the material,” said ACAA Executive Director Thomas H. Adams when the report was released. “This scientific analysis, taken with other reports, conclusively shows that coal ash is safe and comparable to other common materials. Its use as a recycled material should be encouraged, not disparaged.”

The report utilizes recently published U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) data on the constituents of coal ash collected from five power plants in Alaska, Indiana, New Mexico, Ohio, and Wyoming. The data represent a broad spectrum of coal types and environmental conditions. The data showing what metals are present in coal ash were then evaluated using scientifically accepted methods for determining human health risks and were compared to residential soil screening levels established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“Comparing coal ash constituents to residential soil screening levels is the most environmentally conservative approach possible,” said Dr. Bradley. “This analysis estimates exposure to children who live on top of a coal ash pile 24 hours a day. Even under these unrealistic conditions, the metals contained in coal ash do not rise to a level that warrants more than a screening level evaluation using U.S. EPA established guidelines.”

A summary of the report is here, or you can access the full text of the 161-page report. This is not the only study that verifies the material safety of coal ash. For instance, information about an Electric Power Research Institute study comparing coal ash with household trash is here.

Posted by: on: Aug 20, 2012 @ 01:25