EPA Coal Ash Disposal Rule Has Loophole Say Critics

Date: October 30, 2009

Source: News Room

Various proposals by the US EPA to regulate coal ash under a so-called "hybrid" approach, which declares it non-hazardous under some conditions and hazardous under others, has drawn criticism from all quarters. The latest proposal, included in a Government Accountability Office (GAO) document released Friday, would designate coal ash hazardous if stored wet, but non-hazardous if kept in a dry landfill. Environmental groups including Earthjustice complain that would create a loophole for industry to evade government regulation. Coal ash waste, whether it is stored wet or dry, can contain varying levels of arsenic, mercury, radioactivity, lead and other toxic substances. Dry ash disposal runs the risk of becoming airborne and has already spoiled waters in Maryland, Indiana and elsewhere, said Lisa Evans, an attorney with Earthjustice. "We would not think that would be a protective scheme, with the many cases where dry disposal has caused contamination of groundwater and surface water," she said.

The EPA has also considered designating coal ash as non-hazardous if recycled for beneficial reuse in cement or road building products, for example. That approach too has been criticized by recyclers who fear that even the threat of designation as a hazardous waste creates a stigma that would scare away business.

EPA is under pressure from some Democrats and activists to strictly regulate coal waste following a massive ash spill last December at a Tennessee Valley Authority sludge pond that will cost more than $1 billion to clean up. They have promised to make a decision by year's end.

See also: Industry Fights EPA's Hybrid Approach to Regulate Coal Ash (www.wasteinfo.com/news/wbj20091020A.htm).

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