The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing national rules to safely dispose and manage coal ash from coal-fired power plants. The proposed rules would also support beneficial reuse or recycling of coal ash in the manufacture of materials such as cement, concrete and asphalt.
Coal ash, the byproduct of coal combustion at power plants, is disposed of in liquid form at large surface impoundments and in solid form at landfills. The residuals contain contaminants like mercury, cadmium and arsenic, which are associated with cancer and various other serious health effects, says the EPA.
EPA’s risk assessment shows that these contaminants can leach into groundwater and migrate to drinking water sources. The agency has identified at least 71 cases where coal ash has contaminated nearby ground- or surface water, reports the New York Times.