Coal fly ash from India makes strong inroads in USA. The N.C. Council of State agreed to store and re-ship 150,000 tons of coal fly ash from India.
Ms. Blair, ports authority vice president of administration and external affairs, said the port will receive the fly ash. She said it is different than what is commonly referred to generically as coal ash.
From there, she said, the product will be shipped by truck or rail cars to various concrete ready-mix plants. These will use it in the production of cement for concrete construction projects, such as sidewalks and bridges.
“There are a lot of questions about why North Carolina should be importing coal ash from overseas when we’re awash in it here, and it’s a big management and pollution problem,” Todd Miller, founder and executive director of the N.C. Coastal Federation said Monday.
Derb Carter, director of the Chapel Hill office of the Southern Environmental Law Center, called importation of coal waste “perplexing.”
Although concrete companies contend they don’t have enough of the material to satisfy demand, Mr. Carter, like Mr. Miller, said, the state – at Duke Energy’s sites – is “awash” in it.
SELC is very concerned about the port’s importation of the ash, he said.
“We don’t know for sure what is in this material that will come in from India, but we do know that, generally, coal ash contains a number of substances, including arsenic, that pose risks to surface waters and groundwater,” he added.
The National Resource Defense Council’s website notes that, “Coal ash is a general term” that “refers to whatever waste is leftover after coal is combusted, usually in a coal-fired power plant.”
Other websites list a number of possible and likely substances found in coal ash, including mercury and traces of dioxins.
But coal ash is commonly divided into two subcategories based on particle size.
Fly ash particles are the lightest kind of coal ash, so light that they “fly” up into the exhaust stacks of the power plant.
Power plant filters are supposed to catch almost all of it, and fly ash is recyclable. The fine particles bind together and solidify, especially when mixed with water, making them an ideal and supposedly non-toxic ingredient in concrete and wallboard.
The Environmental Protection Agency in 2014 ruled that coal fly ash is regulated as ““non-hazardous.”
But that doesn’t mean it is a simple issue.
The controversy over coal ash in North Carolina began in 2014, when an underground pipe burst at a Duke Energy steam station north of Greensboro. It had spilled close to 39,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River.
The toxic sludge spread 70 miles downstream. It took crews nearly a week just to stop the spill, according to reports.
The state eventually ordered Duke to close dozens of storage basins that some say contain up to 155 million tons of ash. Duke is seeking rate hikes to make customers pay the bulk of a cleanup cost it says could reach $5.1 billion.
According to the state Department of Environmental Quality website, DEQ filed four lawsuits in 2013 alleging violations of state law regarding unlawful discharges and groundwater contamination at all 14 Duke Energy facilities.
In addition, the state General Assembly in 2016 adopted the Coal Ash Management Act, which DEQ says put Duke Energy on a timetable to close all its coal ash ponds.
According to the state law, they are supposed to begin operation by 2020 – earlier if possible – and are supposed to process 900,000 tons of ash a year.
“This material needs to be sheltered from weather and potential storm surges so as not to create a problem with contaminated runoff into our sensitive coastal estuaries,” he said.
“If it’s being kept inside a secure warehouse that is not prone to flooding, and conveyed securely off the ships and transported within North Carolina.
This is to be done without being exposed to the weather, then I would assume that there would not be a contamination issue. I would hope that’s the plan.”
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