This Wednesday is a “Red Wednesday”, which means trash and recycling pickup. Ideally, rolling recycling containers are stored and deployed in the back alleys along with trash cans. Please make sure you pick up containers after pickup tomorrow night.
The biggest and most important recycling story as of late is the new report issued by the Southern Environmental Law Center that shows Dominion can recycle its coal ash waste. Of course, corporate neighbor Dominion would rather do the cheapest, quickest option and bury it, never mind the risks to everyone’s water.
Here’s the executive summary:
Dominion Energy Virginia stores approximately 30 million tons of waste coal ash in impoundments at four different sites in Virginia: the Possum Point Power Station (Dumfries, Va.); the Chesterfield Power Station (Chester, Va.); the Bremo Power Station (Bremo Bluff, Va.); and the Chesapeake Energy Center (Chesapeake, Va.). The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has documented the presence of coal ash-associated contaminants in the groundwater at each of these sites. In 2017, the Virginia General Assembly passed Senate Bill 1398 instructing the utility to assess the feasibility of excavation and the beneficial reuse of legacy ash for use in concrete as a mechanism for closing the impoundments at each of the four sites. This report examines the technical feasibility and market conditions for recycling impounded coal ash for use in concrete in Virginia.
Technology currently exists at commercially available levels to excavate, recover, and beneficially use legacy coal ash stored in impoundments in Virginia for concrete. Similar efforts in the nearby states Maryland and South Carolina have demonstrated success excavating, recovering and beneficially using coal ash in encapsulated beneficial reuse applications to manage and close legacy impoundments. As of 2015, approximately 1.5 million tons of impounded ash from the R. Paul Smith Landfill has been beneficially used in the cement industry, currently at a rate of 450,000 tons per year (TPY). It is expected that complete excavation of all ash will occur by 2020. In South Carolina a Staged Turbulent Air Reactor (STAR) facility became commercially operational at the Santee Cooper Winyah Generation Station in 2015. The 400,000 TPY facility was constructed to process impounded ash into a high-quality, specification grade product for the concrete industry. Three additional 300,000 TPY STAR facilities are planned for construction in North Carolina in 2018 and 2019. These facilities will be located at Duke Energy power stations with totals of 6.2, 6.4, and 5.7 million tons of legacy ash. Collectively, the proposed North Carolina facilities will process 900,000 tons/year. Construction costs for the facilities have been estimated at approximately $50 million each, while the price of high quality, specification grade ash materials, on the order of $50/ton, contributes significantly to the financial viability of this approach.
Coal ash has a long history of use in concrete applications because it increases the durability and strength of the final product. The first major domestic project using coal ash as a concrete supplement was repair of the Hoover Dam in 1942. Today, the recycling of impounded ash at Dominion’s power plants will supply a critical construction material to the industry that builds and maintains transportation infrastructure in Virginia and the southeast region. Nationwide, coal ash is used in 75% of all concrete used for transportation projects, significantly reducing project costs. The Virginia Department of Transportation estimates that fly ash is used in 60 to 70% of all concrete used in transportation projects in the state, all of which, to the best of our knowledge, is currently fully sourced outside of the state due to the lack of beneficiation facilities operating in Virginia. Demand for processed, impounded ash is expected to increase as coal fired power plants are shuttered or switched to other fuels. The overall demand for coal fly ash in Virginia is estimated to be 16 million tons from 2015-2030 and 46 million tons for Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina collectively during this period. The beneficial use of impounded coal ash for concrete from Dominion’s power plants will produce multiple benefits for Virginia.
First, it will eliminate the long-term risk of groundwater and surface water contamination and eliminate the utility’s liability for that contamination. Given the record of contamination from the Dominion sites and their location adjacent to waterways, these unlined legacy coal ash impoundments may continue to contaminate state waters with coal ash constituents even when capped with an impermeable cover. Second, beneficial use will create jobs to support an industry that is not currently operating in Virginia, and also generate tax revenue. And third, beneficial use will provide increased competition for a high value product, lowering state funded construction costs and limiting the import of foreign ash into the state. Based on the data collected for this report, the beneficial use of impounded coal ash for concrete is a feasible, cost effective alternative for cleanly closing legacy ash ponds at Dominion Energy Virginia power stations.