EnvironmentalistsÌ Claim Steers Recycling Success To Ash Heap

Misguided regulatory ambitions and opportunistic environmental groups threaten one of the highest-volume and greenest examples of recycling through construction materials

Misguided regulatory ambitions and opportunistic environmental groups threaten one of the highest-volume and greenest examples of recycling through construction materials outside of scrap steel-derived rebar and reclaimed asphalt.

The threat was detailed in Coal Ash as a Hazardous Waste? The Concrete Industry Responds to Environmental Protection Agency Proposals, a webinar presented last month as a primer on EPA’s potentially onerous Identification and Listing of Special Wastes; Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) from Electric Utilities rule. Speakers demonstrated how one option would undermine the use of fly ash in concrete. In a normal business year, Class F and Class C product might amount to 15 million-plus tons of material recycled, plus the offsetting of carbon dioxide emissions attributable to portland cement production.

Headwaters Resources veteran and Citizens for Recycling First Chairman John Ward and American Coal Ash Association Executive Director Tom Adams told webinar participants of CCR disposal and designation alternatives EPA outlined in Identification and Listing and the political forces behind the proposed rule, namely power-hungry federal regulators and their cheerleaders in the environmental movement. National Ready Mixed Concrete Association Senior Vice President, Sustainability, Lionel Lemay and National Precast Concrete Association Senior Engineer Claude Goguen revealed producer concerns surrounding future prospects for fly ash mix designs should EPA pursue the option of designating landfill-bound CCR a hazardous waste. We will continue to track EPA rule making, but for now have archived the webinar at www.concreteproducts.com/coal and summarized speaker highlights in the immediately following report.

The speakers offer background and suggested action concerned concrete producers and practitioners can consider in advance of submitting their own comments (e-mail, mailing addresses, page 6) on the proposed rule, a comment period for which has been extended from September 20 to November 19. Leading up to the formal Identification and Listing release, EPA had received persuasive arguments to tread lightly on regulations that would threaten commercial viability of ASTM C618-grade CCR. That sentiment came from webinar speakersÌ groups, executives representing major or independent concrete producers, ash management and marketing companies, and representatives from the American Concrete Institute and ASTM Committee C9 on Concrete.

EPA is duty-bound to factor comments from the industry and federal agencies, representatives of which have provided compelling views of fly ash benefits and recycling in concrete. Agency officials will be challenged to balance the substance of concrete interestsÌ position with claims from proponents of a rule that would see landfill-bound CCR designated a hazardous waste. The most vocal such propopent appears to be the Environmental Integrity Project, whose members include Sierra Club-affiliated Earthjustice, a self-styled public interest law firm. They contend that proper disposal of toxic coal ash hinges on federal versus state enforcement, claiming that some states have allowed illegal CCR dumps to operate and contaminate drinking water sources.

Designation of landfill-bound CCR as hazardous waste, they insinuate, will drive more beneficial use of fly ash and companion recyclables, as utilities would face higher disposal costs. The environmental movement might foster new attitudes among businesses and consumers, but widespread acceptance of a hazardous waste as an embedded component of everything from roads to countertops?