Beneficial vs. Responsible Reuse: What’s the Difference?

Each state has beneficial reuse programs to keep waste out of landfills through recycling, helping the environment by postponing “landfill creep.” But AWT doesn’t believe beneficial reuse goes far enough when it comes to disposal of coal combustion residuals (CCRs), such as coal ash, fly ash, bottom ash, gypsum, or other solids produced by coal-fired power plants. Because these materials when improperly recycled can contaminate soil and ground water and cause other problems, they require responsible reuse.

Here are just two incidents where CCRs were used as fill material in Virginia with adverse results:

In Chesapeake between 2002 and 2007, the 18-hole Battlefield Golf Course was constructed on 216 acres, under which 1.5 million tons of coal ash created by Dominion Virginia Power were used as beneficial fill material. When the groundwater showed high levels of arsenic, chromium, lead, beryllium, manganese and zinc, presumably leached from the coal ash, nearby homeowners, the golf club’s owners and others filed lawsuits against Dominion Resources, many of which are still pending.

In August 2010, CBS 60 Minutes did a story, “Coal Ash: 130 Million Tons of Waste,” which included the Battlefield Golf Course situation (begin viewing at 6:30 minutes).

In 1999, a new Home Depot was built in Chesterfield County on a layer of fly ash. Just a few months after the store opened, it had to be demolished and rebuilt because the concrete floors had buckled and cracked after moisture caused the fly ash to swell.

Chesterfield County had many other commercial structures similarly affected by fly ash. In all cases, one could claim it was used “beneficially” because it didn’t end up in landfills. But thanks to the damage and additional expense incurred, it would be a stretch to call its use in building “responsible.”

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  1. Pingback: Coal Ash: “Not in My Back Yard!” | EnCAP-IT

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