The Utility industry has dealt with their coal ash dilemma at a snail’s pace for almost 15 years now. Although it is easy to blame the pace on the monopolistic tendencies of the Utility companies, environmental groups and regulatory agencies are just as much part of the bottleneck. – It takes two to tango!

…And why is this? The inability of the two sides to come together and decide on the middle path has caused this holdup. Instead of concentrating on the “how” to fix issue these two groups are still stuck arguing, after all these years, on the “why”.

Environmental groups’ stance hasn’t changed in over decade; “remove all the ash and either recycle or dispose it”. In the beginning it was thought that all the ash could be recycled into building materials like cement additives, however the market quickly became saturated with the glut of remediated ash. Disposal was never a complete option because there is limited US landfill airspace since waste industry is currently consolidating the disposal market.

To pile on, the threat of more regulations, which creates more legacy remediated ash, has backed the Utilities into a corner.

But before we label Utilities as “victims” we should recognize that they are part of the problem as well. Even when backed into a corner Utilities have failed to address the situation in a timely manner and simply “kicked the can down the road”.

What should be next for these two groups?


Environmental groups should go beyond just the old, outdated battle cry; “NIMBY Not in My Back Yard” and realize that a lot of the coal ash is going to remain on-site and fight for tighter on-site controls (safer storage) instead of “swinging for the fence” and trying to get all the coal ash removed and shipped somewhere else. – “SEBY Somebody Else’s Back Yard”

Utilities need to reset their coal ash strategies and focus on solutions that can be adopted by all stakeholders. Utility companies have established methods and infrastructure with adequate manpower and resources to handle their legacy CCR issues. But as new methods come to the market to deal with CCR more efficiently — yes, it happens — Utilities find themselves calcified, too set in its ways. (“This is how we’ve always done it.”)

Creativity, ingenuity, and innovation is the answer to find a middle-path, but it takes all stakeholders to embrace change.

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind;

  1. Coal ash is a waste and if improperly stored, hazardous.
  2. If coal ash is sitting in ground water, then it must be removed.
  3. Beneficiation (cement) is not the only beneficial reuse of coal ash.
  4. Every coal ash basin site has enough previously environmentally impacted acres to retrofit into safeSTORAGE®.

EnCAP-IT has been involved in dozens of CCR unit site-level analyses. They all had common challenges and concerns: not enough space to safely store all the coal ash being excavated. While traditional storage methods lend, somewhat, to solving this dilemma, they often come up short. In every one of these analyses, using our tools provided a far safer, better, and cheaper way in which to properly create excavated ash storage. So the answer to the on-site storage question was “yes we can”.