Filling mines with the residues of coal combustion is a viable way to dispose of these materials, provided they are placed so as to avoid adverse health and environmental effects, says a new congressionally mandated report from the National Academies National Research Council. The residues left after coal is burned to generate power - often referred to as coal ash - consist of noncombustible coal matter and material trapped by pollution control devices. Enforceable federal standards are needed to guide the placement of coal ash in mines to minimize health and environmental risks, the report says.
Coal combustion in the United States leaves behind enough residue to fill 1 million railroad coal cars each year, and the volume continues to grow along with rising energy demands and improved pollution-control measures. Most of this ash is disposed of in landfills and surface impoundments, but it is increasingly being used in mine reclamation. In addition, about 38 percent of the residues are currently used to make cement, wall board, and other products. The report encourages the continued use of some residues in industrial applications as a way to reduce the amount requiring disposal.
"Because the amount of coal combustion residues is large and increasing, we should pursue productive uses for them," said Perry Hagenstein, chair of the committee that wrote the report and president of the Institute for Forest Analysis, Planning, and Policy, Wayland, Mass. "When such uses are not feasible, putting residues in mines as part of reclamation provides an alternative to landfills and surface impoundments, although potential health and environmental risks must be addressed."
William Skane | EurekAlert!
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