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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Coal Combustion Waste

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) published an excellent report in 2007 on coal combustion waste (CCW). The report, "Dangerous Disposals: Keeping Coal CombustionWaste Out of Our Water Supply," is an excellent source of background information on this subject.

Excerpts:

Each year, America’s coal-fired power plants and industrial facilities produce approximately 130 million tons of coal combustion waste (CCW), the residue left behind when coal is burned. That’s enough waste to fill a train of box cars stretching from Washington, D.C., to Melbourne, Australia. Because CCW contains pollutants like arsenic, mercury, lead, and othertoxic substances, its disposal carries many risks. Without proper monitoring and safeguards, disposing of toxic coal combustion waste can pose seriousdangers to nearby ground and surface waters—and the people who rely onthese sources for safe drinking water.

There are multiple types of coal combustionwaste, including coal ash (fly ash, bottom ash), flue gas desulfurization waste (waste created when the exhaust from smokestacks at coal-burning facilities is treated to remove sulfur), and boilerslag (molten coal ash collected from the bottom of coal-burning furnaces). This waste containstoxic chemicals such as aluminum, arsenic,boron, cadmium, chromium, lead, manganese, molybdenum, selenium and sulfate—pollutants that can cause cancer, birth defects, reproductive problems, damage to the nervous system and kidneys, and learning disabilities in children.

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