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.