Tuesday, November 24, 2009

From coal ash to concrete

Posted By on Tue, Nov 24, 2009 at 8:16 PM

Don't forget: Renew, reuse, reduce, rethink, recycle. We've only got one livable planet -- so far; be kind to her.

Unfortunately the coal ash at Charlotte's two unlined, high-hazard coal ash ponds -- located on Mountain Island Lake just upstream from where Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities sucks our drinking water out of the lake -- isn't recyclable. But, the good news is some of the coal ash from newer, more efficient coal-fired plants is re-purpose-able.

Since last December, when a Tennessee Valley Authority dike broke spilling an estimated billion gallons of coal sludge over 300 acres, the nation became aware of coal ash ponds in their own communities, including two in Charlotte’s backyard.

However, for academics and industry professionals, finding new uses for the toxic material is nothing new.

In fact coal ash is an ingredient used at some concrete production facilities, and has been for years. Brett Tempest is writing his thesis about ways to reuse coal ash as a Ph.D candidate at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

“I like the idea that you can make good new things from waste,” he said.

But variances in coal and the varied ways coal waste is processed at the 600-plus coal-fired power plants in the United States makes it difficult for the concrete industry to establish specific standards, which means it’s not being used as much as it could be.

“It’s not a very uniform waste,” said Tempest, “but it’s uniform compared to a scoop from a landfill.”

Read the rest of this Mountain Island Weekly article here.

While coal ash in concrete is relatively safe, not all products that include coal ash may be:

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