EPA wants ash heap changesThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday proposed new regulations for disposing of ash left over when coal is burned at electric power plants.
By: Forum Newspapers, Lake County News Chronicle
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday proposed new regulations for disposing of ash left over when coal is burned at electric power plants.
The effort is aimed at preventing problems like the coal ash spill in Tennessee in 2008 that sent millions of cubic yards of tainted coal ash into nearby waterways, and a smaller ash slide that hit the North Shore in 1993.
Any changes would affect Cliffs Natural Resources and its ash facility at the Silver Bay Power Co.
The ash that’s left after coal is burned to generate electricity is often disposed of either as a liquid in ponds or a solid in landfills at about 900 facilities nationwide.
Power plants in Minnesota alone generate more than 1.5 million tons of ash each year, EPA records show. There are about 19 coal ash ponds and seven coal ash landfills associated with power plants in the state.
In the region, Duluth-based Minnesota Power has ash disposal facilities at the Laskin Power Station in Hoyt Lakes, Boswell Power Station in Cohasset and Taconite Harbor Energy Center in Cook County. Cliffs has the only facility in Lake County.
Unlike the failed Tennessee dike that was made from ash, Minnesota Power officials say the dikes holding back coal ash ponds are made from solid earth and clay. Al Rudeck, vice president of generation for Minnesota Power, said the utility still is reviewing the EPA proposals but noted the utility has never had a major issue with ash dikes in decades of operating coal plants.
Elevated levels of arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, nitrate, chloride, copper, iron, manganese, sulfate and zinc have been found near some ash facilities.
In July 1993 a rain-soaked coal ash pile crashed down the hillside toward Lake Superior, sweeping a semi off Highway 61. The 27-acre ash dump near the former LTV Steel power plant at Taconite Harbor wrecked an electric substation as it poured down the hill. Some ash made it into Lake Superior, and the cleanup cost the company $11 million.