EPA Ignored Possible Health Risks of Using Coal Waste for Construction

Monday, March 28, 2011
Coal ash spill in Tennessee
With little scientific analysis to show it was safe, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommended the use of coal ash and other waste to build roads and structures over the past 10 years.
According to a new report from EPA’s inspector general, the agency promoted the use of leftovers from coal-fired power plants, such as fly ash, bottom ash and boiler slag, in materials for wallboard, road surfaces, golf course fill, concrete and other applications. EPA went this route in order to reduce waste, even though the coal waste contained low concentrations of arsenic, lead and mercury, all of which can seep into groundwater supplies and pose a potential danger to human health.
According to the Inspector General report, “EPA did not follow accepted and standard practices in determining the safety of the 15 categories of CCR [coal combustion residuals] beneficial uses it promoted through the C2P2 program. EPA’s application of risk assessment, risk screening, and leachate testing and modeling was significantly limited in scope and applicability. Without proper protections, CCR contaminants can leach into ground water and migrate to drinking water sources, posing significant public health concerns.”
EPA’s decision was rooted in the recommendations of a government-industry coalition (the Coal Combustion Products Partnership) that included the American Coal Ash Association and the Utility Solid Waste Activities Group.
The use of coal residues as filler nearly tripled between 2001 and 2008, from 4 million tons to 12 million tons a year, according to the report.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
EPA Failed to Assess Coal Risks, IG Finds (by George Warner, Government Executive)
EPA Promoted the Use of Coal Ash Products with Incomplete Risk Information (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Inspector General) (pdf)
Coal Waste Contaminates Water in 21 States (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


Jas 9 years ago
i just completed reading the report by the inspector general. i must say it is suspect in the least. one commission under a politically guided president produces one, vague document not detailing the existence of actual toxins in actual sites where fly ash has been recycled into concrete. it is merely a report detailing the epas lack of completed work, and that maybe, possibly we might have a problem? to anyone familiar with the epa that is no surprise. the report conclusion does not report a single instance of a dangerous situation? i think it is obvious this another tell a lie until it becomes the truth scam. and they are now trying to hide 20 years of research by previous people in the epa, saying it was a bad idea without any science to prove their assumptions and showing nothing of research to debunk the previous lack of research. incompetence at its best. epa all the way!

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