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EPA Proposes Changes To Regulations On Coal Ash Use

The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing even more changes to rules regarding coal ash. This week the agency announced plansto get rid of the limit for how much coal ash utilities can dump on land for certain uses. 

The EPA says limiting uncontained coal ash piles to 12,400 tons is an arbitrary number that doesn’t prevent groundwater contamination in all situations. Tim Maloney, senior policy director with the Hoosier Environmental Council, says that may be true but any limit is better than none.

“Any use of coal ash where, or disposal system where, the coal ash will come in contact with water presents an unacceptable risk," he says.

Coal ash can be disposed of in landfills or, like dirt, it can be used as fillin construction sites or roadways. Maloney says the town of Pines, Indiana, is the poster child for how this practice can go wrong.

“Coal ash was used as fill throughout the community and they had widespread drinking water well contamination — and that community is now a Superfund site,” Maloney says.

Coal ash can also be used in ways that are more contained, like to make drywall and concrete.

The proposed rule would provide some protections for sensitive areas like wetlands and seismic zones. The EPA refused to make someone available for comment.

Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.