The EPA's Ruling On Coal Ash Recyling

Coal mine and power plant

The Environmental Protection Agency began examining the act of recycling coal combustion byproducts and their affect on local water supplies in 2014. Recently, they officially announced that coal ash is not a hazardous material, which allows them to continue to be recycled in the traditional fashion without additional measures being required. As noted in an article at C&D World, this decision has a far reaching impact for those in the demolition industry.Had the EPA declared coal ash to be a hazardous material, trying to recycle materials from a demolition site would have become additionally complicated. All concrete and drywall pulled from a site would have to be tested for the presence of coal combustion byproducts before they could have been safely, and legally, recycled. This is because cement can be replaced by coal ash in the concrete making process, and a byproduct powder produced at coal plants can be used instead of natural gypsum to make drywall. Without being able to look and tell what materials were used to make the concrete or drywall found at a site, further testing would be required.This not only would have greatly affected realistic timelines for recycling, but it also would have significantly impacted the cost. That would have constricted budgets and, for some, may have made it no longer cost effective to recycle these materials.While the EPA's decision allows recycling to operate freely, power plants will have to meet minimum standards for landfills and disposal ponds that contain coal combustion byproducts. Linings and reinforcements are to be used to prevent leaks. The EPA specifically warns against the public being exposed to breathing in coal ash dust, which suggests that precautions should be taken by the individuals involved in the demolition and recycling of materials that could contain coal ash.Across the country, the recycling of coal ash is a growing business, but there's still plenty of room to grow. The US produced more than 114-million tons of coal ash in 2013 alone and less than half was reported to be reused.Recycling of materials is a big part of what we do at DT Specialized Services, but we also take safety very seriously. We want to ensure that all materials we encounter are being treated and disposed of property to keep our team and the surrounding community safe. To learn more about how we do things and our capabilities in the demolition industry, give us a call.