Monthly Archives: June 2019

Innovative Thinking

Innovation is not an abstract concept, but a desirable mindset.

You’ve probably heard the expression, “Thinking outside the box,” but how willing are you to put aside all your preconceived notions and actually do it?

True innovators make it habit. Their typical modus operandi is to view problems from every angle and brainstorm until they come up with a variety of creative solutions. They try until they hit on the combination that works best.

The methodology is in the definition of innovation provided by Oxford Dictionaries if you search online…

You get the picture. Granted, not everyone is cut out to be an innovative thinker, but it’s vital to have at least one on your solution team.

Incremental Innovation is Good, Too

Innovation doesn’t have to be earth-shattering. In fact, incremental innovation is most common; it builds on something that already exists.

safeBERM® technology is an example of incremental innovation. The methodology is leading-edge, but based on a solid foundation of simple, tried-and-true engineering principles.

Here are some recent scenarios with innovative responses to traditional dilemmas …

After two hours of evaluating a vendor’s recommendations for proper legacy CCR disposition, a utility’s conclusion was, “We don’t need to expand our on-site CCR landfill since we’ll most likely be converting our boilers to natural gas and won’t need the additional airspace.”

An innovative vendor’s response would be: “That’s the best news I’ve heard today. What you’re telling me is that there will be a larger footprint available on-site for proper legacy CCR disposition, so we don’t have to haul the CCR anywhere else. This is will save you time and money. It’s great!”

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A local landfill owner worried, “We’ve having more hurricanes and flooding than we’ve ever seen before, and now we have big concerns about how protected our landfill is against these events. Is there any way we can expand it AND address the risks?”

An innovator’s response: “We build you a safeBERM® that not only increases capacity, but also uses its bidirectional hydrostatic barrier properties to safeguard the surrounding environment against flooding and hurricanes.”

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A CCR “expert” expresses doubts about having enough beneficial use opportunities available to handle millions of tons of legacy CCR.

An innovator’s response: “Why stop at just one solution? Find more. How about landfills that need expansion? You can establish public-private-partnerships that can effectively handle CCR disposition while extending landfills’ useful lives. Those opportunities are out there. You just need to be open to finding them.

Everyone has a role to play in our environment. We’ve defined our role with our array of solutions. Have you?

CCR Innovation Series: Part 3 of 3

It takes a village to solve the looming CCR storage issue.

In all discussions of coal ash disposition — either through beneficial reuse or keeping it intact but contained — the overriding concern is safety.

The cap-in-place solution has been solidly debunked from a safety standpoint. The market for beneficial use of coal ash in building products still lags far behind the over-abundance of legacy CCR. Yes, the market may eventually catch up, but leaving toxic CCR in the ground indefinitely while it waits for a new home isn’t an option.

Government regulations have necessitated more rapid and safe disposition, raising these questions for stakeholders:

  • What method to use?
  • How long will it take to implement?
  • What will it cost?

New regulations in Virginia and North Carolina, and pending legislation in Illinois, are harbingers of what’s to come as utilities find themselves compelled by law to find innovative ways to dispose of their legacy CCR. Drying and excavation is a monumental challenge, but the challenge doesn’t stop there. Excavation results in large stockpiles that need to be properly stored. Indecision over how to proceed, or an inability to pick a middle path for all stakeholders, only compounds the problem.

When engineers in ancient Egypt cut and laid the first limestone block, they probably wondered if and when their project would ever end. But that didn’t stop them from marshalling their forces to stack block upon block for years until they finally had a pyramid.

Similarly, it’s the duty of all stakeholders in the CCR dilemma to rise up and conquer the challenges they face today, one site at a time, until no CCR is left behind.

If we take inspiration from the famous Nike slogan, “JUST DO IT,” resolutions to the most vexing problems become fairly straightforward:

“The impounded coal ash is too close to a waterway.” — MOVE IT.

“We don’t have enough land to store the impounded coal ash.” — FIND WAYS TO MAXIMIZE IT.

“We can’t beneficiate all the ash within the 15-year deadline.” — SAFELY STORE IT.

“Our on-site landfill is susceptible to hurricanes and flooding.” — SHORE IT UP.

“There’s no one solution that fits all.” — SO TACKLE IT WITH MULTIPLE SOLUTIONS.

“We don’t want to burden our ratepayers.” — FIND WAYS TO FIX IT THAT PROVIDE THE MOST BANG FOR THE BUCK.

“It costs too much to safely store this much coal ash.” — SHOW US WHY IT DOES.

Utilities have typically been less than transparent in divulging their methods and costs. Ironically, this has forced environmentalists and affected citizens to become much better educated and organized, making them potent potential allies equipped to bring new ideas to the table.

Now’s the time for everyone to come together, think together, and determine best practices for dealing with CCR in their communities. Whether it’s safe storage now to become inventory for future beneficial use, permanent on-site disposition or relocation, the answers are out there. It takes a village to find them.