December 7, 2010
MADISON - The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is showing the nation how the smart use of coal ash, bottom ash and gypsum from coal-burning operations in construction projects can save dollars and protect Wisconsin's air and water quality.
Coal ash, bottom ash and gypsum, the byproducts from burning coal to produce electricity, are under consideration by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to be classified as a special hazardous waste to be managed as a solid waste.
While Wisconsin strives to move from coal toward renewable energy sources, coal ash will be produced in the state for the foreseeable future. Rather than expanding landfills to dispose of these materials, they are largely being reused in construction projects.
"Thanks to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources ... Wisconsin's administrative code which addresses beneficial uses of industrial byproducts has become a national model," UW Professor Craig Benson told the U.S. House Small Business Subcommittee on Rural Development, Entrepreneurship and Trade. "The regulations are practical and scientifically sound. It's thought of as the most forward-thinking rule-making on this anywhere in the United States."
At the Recycled Materials Resource Center at the UW-Madison, Benson tests coal combustion byproduct materials - such as coal ash, bottom ash and gypsum -- and develops guidelines for using those materials in construction applications.
Benson's research shows coal-combustion byproducts, when used correctly, do not release elements to the environment in significant amounts and are a valuable resource when beneficially used.
In 2007, the U.S. produced nearly 72 million tons of coal ash, bottom ash, and gypsum from coal-combustion processes. The majority of this material went to landfills, but 47 percent was used in construction projects such as road base, asphalt filler, roofing granules, and materials for snow and ice control. Using products in this way saves the country $5-10 billion annually and reduces emissions equivalent to removing 2 million vehicles from U.S. roadways.
Facilities in Wisconsin generate anywhere from 1.5 to 2 million tons of coal ash materials annually, approximately 85 percent or more of which are beneficially used.
Sound research leads to sound policy and Wisconsin continues to lead the nation in environmental policy.
The EPA has closed the public comment period for coal combustion residuals. The DNR did submit comments on the rule proposal supporting coal combustion product regulation as an industrial solid waste, with opportunities for coal combustion byproducts to be beneficially used when appropriate.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Ann Coakley - 608-261-8449