Waste Management Sees Coal Ash Disposal Opportunities

by | Aug 8, 2014

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Waste ManagementWaste Management is expecting to see a significant growth in its sales if a pending EPA rule requiring coal-fired power plants to dispose of ash byproduct in engineered landfills is passed, according to Bloomberg.

According to David Steiner of Waste Management, the EPA rule will most likely require coal ash pits to be replaced by lined landfills, similar to the landfill requirements for solid waste implemented 30 years ago.

The EPA is deciding whether to regulate coal ash as a special waste under Subtitle C of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, subjecting it to hazardous waste regulations, or as a nonhazardous waste under Subtitle D, which would leave regulatory authority with the states. The agency is expected to issue a final rule by the end of the year.

The rule is intended to address coal ash pits that have leaked and contaminated water supplies, such as the spill earlier this year at Duke Energy in North Carolina. As a result of that spill, Duke Energy is now the subject of a criminal investigation by a federal grand jury.

According to Steiner, the move into handling coal ash is an expansion opportunity for the company. Approximately 140 million tons of coal waste are generated by electric utilities each year, which is more than the 100 million tons of garbage currently handled by Waste Management.

According to Steiner, the company is already beginning to get a considerable amount of coal ash from utilities.

However, disposal is not the only option for coal ash.

In February, the EPA released its evaluation of the two largest beneficial uses of encapsulated coal ash: use in concrete as a substitute for Portland cement, and the use of flue gas desulfurization gypsum as a substitute for mined gypsum in wallboard.

In July, Michigan approved a bill to allow coal ash to be reused for some beneficial purposes such as road construction and as a fertilizer supplement.

While Steiner expects some utilities will choose to continue taking care of their own waste, he says winning just a small portion of the market could result in 10 million tons of additional sales volume a year for the company.

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