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EPA Finds Coal Ash Safe for Use in Concrete

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On February 7, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a new study that concludes the use of coal fly ash in concrete and synthetic gypsum in wallboard is safe and that these are appropriate beneficial uses for coal fly ash recycling. "EPA supports the beneficial use of coal fly ash in concrete and FGD gypsum in wallboard," the report stated. "The Agency believes that these beneficial uses provide significant opportunities to advance Sustainable Materials Management (SMM)." (Read the full report and methodologies here.)

EPA evaluated the encapsulated use in concrete as a substitute for portland cement and the use of flue gas desulfurization (FGD) gypsum as a substitute for mined gypsum in wallboard. EPA’s evaluation concluded that the beneficial use of encapsulated CCRs in concrete and wallboard is appropriate because they are comparable to virgin materials or below the agency’s health and environmental benchmarks. The use of fly ash in concrete accounts for more than half of the total amount of fly ash that is beneficially used.

In 2011, after EPA’s Inspector General criticized the Coal Combustion Products Partnership ("C2P2") for "inadequately" evaluating the risks of coal ash beneficial uses the program promoted, EPA began developing the methodology. EPA officials have not expressed any interest in restarting the C2P2 program, which was shut down after the 2011 report, and have indicated that they do not plan to conduct any additional studies utilizing the methodology. EPA is making the methodology available to assist states and other interested parties with evaluating and making informed determinations about encapsulated beneficial uses of coal ash. EPA is also working to develop methodology and evaluate unencapsulated beneficial reuses of coal ash – such as use in agriculture.

NRMCA continues to support efforts to enact coal ash legislation that would establish a federal non-hazardous waste regulatory program, implemented by the states, for coal combustion residuals management.  H.R. 2218, the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act of 2013, which would establish minimum state disposal requirements, passed the House in July by a vote of 265 to 155.

For more information contact Elizabeth Fox at or 240-485-1156.

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