Save Your Ash

Herd About It?
by Ana Grarian

I love living in farm country. I love the beauty of the wide open spaces. I love that there is a small population and we aren’t crowded together. I was listening to a conversation amongst some town friends. They had decided to trim some heavy tree branches that were causing a dangerous situation in their small yard. They had to notify the neighbor and make sure the tree was “theirs” or get the neighbors permission and hopefully get him to share the costs. This is not a problem I have had to deal with. A tree in our yard could in no way be construed as the neighbors and he had no say about, nor responsibility for, my trimming it. A tree on the hedgerow dividing our properties would be unlikely to cause much ado.

Well it seems that the government, and industry, like us for far different reasons. They can get rid of toxic waste here. First build the toxic industries in rural(or poor, or poor rural) areas. Then convince the farmers that the toxic waste from industry is an important “soil additive”. Let them spread these toxic products on their fields, handle them as they pour it into mineral hoppers, breathe the dust, etc. It may leach into the streams, ponds and private wells, but we’ll no longer have piles of it near our power plants that terrorists might find.

Here’s a funny little story about coal ash. My husband used to work for a company that hauled ash and cinders out of a coal burning power plant here in CNY. The regulations were that the ash could not be spread below a certain state highway. This was to prevent the very unstable ash from washing down the hills and ravines into one of the Fingerlakes.

One year the company he worked for lost it’s bid on the contract. Since then the ash is being spread, below the highway, more than a mile closer to the lake. Of course this saved quite a bit of money in transportation costs. It also put the dump in a spot with much less visibility. Out of sight out of mind (unless you’re one of those sneaky little terrorists). Because a coal burning power plant is so difficult to find.

Read more at:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/06/12/coal-ash-spills-too-dange_n_214739.html
“Homeland Security has told Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) that her committee can’t publicly disclose the location of coal ash dumps across the country.”
“The pollution is so toxic, so dangerous, that an enemy of the United States — or a storm or some other disrupting event — could easily cause them to spill out and lay waste to any area nearby.”

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2009/12/27/MNJJ1B7IEP.DTL
Rick Callahan, Associated Press Sunday, December 27, 2009

“The federal government is encouraging farmers to spread a chalky waste from coal-fired power plants on their fields to loosen and fertilize soil even as it considers regulating coal wastes for the first time.”
“A synthetic form of the mineral gypsum, it also contains mercury, arsenic, lead and other heavy metals.”
” Since the EPA/USDA partnership began in 2001, farmers’ use of the material has more than tripled, from about 78,000 tons spread on fields in 2002 to nearly 279,000 tons last year, according to the American Coal Ash Association, a utility industry group.”
“About half of the 17.7 million tons of FGD gypsum produced in the U.S. last year was used to make drywall, said Thomas Adams, the association’s executive director. But he said it’s important to find new uses for it and other coal wastes because the nation is likely to remain reliant on coal-fired power plants for decades to come.”