Below is a list of frequently asked questions. Click each dropdown to view the answers.
Below is a list of frequently asked questions. Click each dropdown to view the answers.
A structural fill is an engineered fill designed to improve land for an intended end use. Typically, the land is unusable for the intended end use unless fill material is imported to raise the elevation to fit the desired design. Due to its homogenous particle size, predictable geotechnical characteristics, low unit weight, relatively high shear strength and ease of handling and compaction, coal ash is an ideal material for such fills. Charah Solutions is highly experienced in the use of coal ash, placing it and compacting it in accordance with approved ASTM design criteria.
In reference to structural fills, the descriptions “lined” and “fully lined” refer to protective measures employed in the design to prevent or limit water from penetrating or passing through the actual fill material. The liner can be a layer of low permeability soil and/or manufactured synthetic material. As implemented by Charah Solutions, in a fully lined structural fill, the ash is placed between a series of liners, with the top and bottom ultra-low permeability synthetic liners heat-welded together to encapsulate and isolate the ash. The completed fully lined structural fill is then covered by soil to accommodate the final surface needs for the design purpose. Fully lined structural fills are designed to meet all ASTM, state and federal standards, including strict groundwater monitoring and reporting. Charah Solutions always uses the best practices, materials and technology for structural fills. Charah Solutions recently completed a coal ash structural fill project at Asheville (North Carolina) Regional Airport. Click here to learn more about the construction process and components of a fully lined structural fill.
The CCR Regulations became effective 180 days from publication and place requirements on electric utilities that operate coal plants to review existing sites and implement new operational requirements to comply with this broad reaching program. The Federal Register rules are located at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-04-17/pdf/2015-00257.pdf.
Related to CCR disposal, the new criteria established measures that ensure groundwater monitoring at all active CCR disposal units, and also require implementation of measures to ensure that CCRs are properly disposed of in units that are protective of human health and the environment. Design criteria and location restrictions are established for any new disposal unit.
By establishing the new criteria, EPA has once again confirmed that coal ash is not hazardous and can be adequately managed under a non-hazardous regulatory approach. This finding is supported by many years of research by the scientific community and by states which currently manage solid wastes of all types. In addition to the CCR regulations, EPA has also released its report on the beneficial use of fly ash in concrete and gypsum in wallboard. The study entitled “Coal Combustion Residual Beneficial Use Evaluation: Fly Ash Concrete and FGD Gypsum Wallboard” confirms that the use of ash and coal combustion products (CCPs) in these types of construction products meets all the criteria for safety and should be encouraged as a best practice for utilizing these valuable resources. After publishing the rules, members of industry and environmental groups filed suits to address technical issues within the new rules. On April 18, 2016, the EPA reached a Settlement Agreement with litigants to address four claims and the EPA’s request for the Court to remand the rule back for amendment to address remaining claims. On June 14, 2016, the Fourth Circuit Court (DC) remanded the rules back to EPA to make changes to address litigation. On August 5, 2016, the EPA amended CCR Regulations to include inactive ponds.
In late 2017, the oral arguments for the remaining CCR case issues were held in the Fourth Circuit Court. While the court case decision remains under review, EPA announced in 2017 that it intended to reconsider the CCR regulations in two phases and address many of the issues under litigation. In addition to the reconsideration efforts at EPA, Congress passed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WINN) on December 16, 2016 which included a section titled “Control of Coal Combustion Residuals” amending Subtitle D of RCRA and providing that States may elect to be the primary administering authority in lieu of a federal regulatory program. EPA published guidance documents in 2017 providing states with instruction on what each state must submit to EPA for review and approval of state authorization to administer the CCR rules under state control. Once a state files its program, the EPA must review the state programs every twelve months.
In March 2018, EPA proposed Phase 1 changes to the CCR regulations. After a public comment process and OMB review, EPA released a Phase 1-Part 1 pre-publication copy of the amendments on July 18, 2018. EPA has a target to address Phase 2 proposed rules in 2018, with a final rule change in 2019. Within the Phase 1-Part 1 amendments, EPA addresses three major areas and notes that a forthcoming second part rule will address additional Court remand items. The major provisions are:
(1) Provides states with approved CCR programs authority to use alternate performance standards as directed by WIIN. Also allows states to certify compliance items in addition to P.E.s.
(2) Revises groundwater protection standards for four constituents (Cobalt, Lead, Lithium & Molybdenum) that have no maximum contaminant levels (MCL) under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Boron was not addressed in Phase 1 – Part 1.
(3) Provides an extension in deadlines for certain units to cease receiving CCRs under two very specific circumstances; if a detection of groundwater with constituents and also where the unit cannot meet the five feet vertical separation location restriction. This action aligns with the timeline for new NPDES rules coming in 2019-2020 and extends pond life until 10/31/2020. All other location restrictions remain intact.
EPA is still required to address Court remand items that were not addressed in this Phase 1-Part 1 rule within 2018. Remaining Court remand items will be addressed in a forthcoming amendment. The EPA has also previously indicated that Phase 2 modification rules will be proposed in fall of 2018 with final rules in 2019.
One of the remaining items to be addressed by EPA is inclusion of Boron in the groundwater constituent list.
After EPA published its guidance for states to submit their CCR regulatory programs, several states have initiated the review/certification process. On June 28, 2018, Oklahoma was authorized as the first State to receive approval (https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2018-06-28/pdf/2018-13461.pdf) to administer their own CCR Program effective July 31, 2018.
Related to the CCR regulations, the Effluent Limitations Guidelines (ELG) under the Clean Water Act also impact ash ponds and CCR management methods. The new stringent rules were published November 3, 2015 (https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/04/25/2017-07811/postponement-of-certain-compliance-dates-for-effluent-limitations-guidelines-and-standards-for-the) with implementation deadlines that would have impacted power plants in 2017. The rules were subject to judicial review due to litigation. On April 12, 2017, the EPA announced it would reconsider the final rules and placed a stay on the compliance deadlines. This reconsideration essentially allows existing permitted wastewater discharges from ash impoundments to continue under the existing rules.
If you are a user of coal ash, the rules provide assurance that products using recycled fly ash, bottom ash and gypsum are safe and protective of the environment. EPA’s criteria for disposal and the exemption of beneficial use both signal how important CCRs are to the national construction materials industries. EPA support for the continued beneficial use of CCRs paves the way for continued investment in science and projects that expand this resource utilization.
If you are an individual, the new EPA rules validate that CCRs are a valuable resource and can be safely used for various applications. This support for beneficial use saves natural resources by using recovered CCRs and avoids natural resource extraction while saving costs in producing new construction materials. Since the utilization of CCRs as a replacement for cement in concrete minimizes the emissions from the cement manufacturing process and reduces imported cement, the U.S. balance of trade is enhanced. Individuals can also take comfort that EPA has established general criteria governing disposal of CCRs that is protective of health and the environment. Accordingly, states will be able to implement programs tailored to their specific needs.