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Quiet Battle Over Coal Ash Guidelines

Photo Credit Thinkstock

Photo Credit Thinkstock

John Ostapkovich John Ostapkovich
John Ostapkovich brings humor and wit, and a wealth of experience...
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By John Ostapkovich

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A quiet battle is being fought over one of the biproducts of our civilization: coal ash and it’s something in which Pennsylvania is number one.

Coal-fired power plants keep the lights on but generate tons and tons of coal combustion residuals, coal ash to most of us. There are no federal regulations on its handling although there are some having to do with water pollution.

Jared Saylor of the group EarthJustice says, “This leftover ash is filled with some of the most-toxic ingredients of coal, things like mercury, selenium, lead and arsenic, and a lot of these coal-fired power plants have taken this coal ash and dumped it into a nearby landfill or pond.”

And Saylor says largely nobody notices until their drinking water gets contaminated or there’s a coal ash flood from a breach in a pond. Spurred by a court ruling, the EPA will issue guidelines in December, so between now and then Saylor expects furious haggling over every word.

He says coal ash can actually be recycled as paving material and regulations could give utilities a push in that direction.

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