Monday, October 18, 2010

Environmental news

The EPA has put a temporary halt to the uses of coal ash for recycling. In the past such waste has been used in making such things as concrete, road underlayments and even as a traction aid during winter months. This was the reason Chinese drywall had such problems. They had mixed their fly ash with the drywall causing it to out gas sulfur dioxide when it became damp.
Now you would think that this would be a welcome report from the "liberal" media but you'd be wrong. In fact corporate controlled media has chastised the EPA for using their web site that promoted recycling of such mine wastes and coal ash. Even though this has been policy for many years under the Bush administration. That is until the ash retention pond gave way contaminating several miles of Tenn. riverfront homes. Someone had the idea of testing the ash for what it contained. How they didn't know this stuff wasn't toxic is a real question as it's been know for years that slag contained high levels of arsenic and heavy metals.
You'd also think that the EPA could merely issue a statement saying that they had errored but they are now stuck between a rock and a hard place. Industry wanting that cheap material will be sending their lobbyists to D.C. to reset policy. Environmental groups will be doing the same to try and stop any going back to the good old Bush days.

At present there is a 60 day moratorium until all public comment can be heard. What to do and where do I stand on the issue having worked with such nasties the last 20 years? Knowing what I do there needs to be limited use of it's recycling. I realize that many of the chemicals we use in manufacturing are dangerous and toxic but necessary for a final product. It's a difficult matter to protect both workers and the public from these chemicals and wastes. It's also a problem of shear volume as much of our electricity comes from burning coal. To continue to add such toxins to concrete and other products raises the risk of biting us in the butt now and years down the road. They could lower the amounts (percentages) of waste used below acceptable exposure limits to rid some of the waste. And I still think putting it back in empty mines is a viable option if it's done properly. However with new mining techniques such as rock wall and striping mountain tops doesn't lend itself to that means of disposal.

I expect not much will change in the short term but in the long run we'll have to deal with the problem in unique ways with new technologies and changes to worker protections. I expect you'll be seeing more workers wearing respirators in the future as the effects of concrete dusts, welding fumes and other construction and process pollution show up in retiring workers. We are after all mere guinea pigs of corporate America.


Four Dinners said...

My daughter is taking a Geography degree and seems destined to head towards enviromental issues once she's gained the degree.

I'll ask her to translate this for me...;-)

...I've been banned from MMA by the way, so I'm back to my own blog - and about time too! (Probably both the banning and coming home to mine)...;-)

Tom Harper said...

I'm probably being nosy, but how'd you get banned from MMA? That site used to be one of my regular visits, but I haven't been there for awhile.

It seemed like they were trying to become one of the "big" blogs, but the last few times I went there it seemed more and more self contained; most of the comments seemed to be MMA contributors commenting at each other's posts.

I used to have MMA linked at my blog and my blog was linked at MMA. Then a few months ago I saw that my site wasn't linked there any more, so I deleted the MMA link at my site and haven't been back there since then.

BBC said...

Remember the Bunker Hill mine outside of Kellogg, Idaho?

Spent much of my youth growing up around it. There was a big mountain of slag there back in those days, I would say that it covered more than few hundred acres.

I don't know how nasty it was but it was used on the roads every winter and provided good traction.

After the mine closed the area become a super fund site, I don't know if it's been all cleaned up by now or not.

Anyway, I and many others lived through all that nasty shit on the ground and in the air and water and many of us are still here.

I even worked in the smelter for about a week and a half after getting out of the Navy, but it was too nasty a place for me to want to stay in.

BBC said...

Mad Mike is a babbling fool, just another idiot American.

Demeur said...

He probably got banned for his comments about Muslims. If they don't have a contract on his life I'd be surprised.

Billy you're lucky your exposures to Bunker Hill didn't kill you. The levels of arsenic there were so high our clean up workers had to be bussed in moon suits to clean up the site. The land there is contaminated for miles. It is still a superfund site. My recertification instructor worked there so I have his firsthand knowledge.

S.W. Anderson said...

They didn't just find heavy metals in the land in and around Kellogg. Children there had dangerous serum lead levels. Many of the products we take for granted come with awful hidden costs.

Demeur, I think your idea for depositing fly ash in petered out mines is a good one. Even though different kinds of mining are done now, don't forget that mining regions are chock full of old abandoned mines that could be used.