Coal Ash

Coal ash is a residue left over from the burning of coal. The smokestacks and furnaces of coal combustion plants are required to have filters that keep coal ash from spewing directly into the air; however, this leaves a leftover deposit (also known as coal combustion waste) that contains concentrated amounts of toxic heavy metals. This residue is then either stored in landfills (dry storage), in impoundments (wet storage), or is reused in various daily products.

Coal ash is the largest industrial waste stream in the U.S. and has never been regulated to protect the public.

Coal ash rally in Louisville 2010

As Kentucky’s dependence on and burning of coal remains steady, coal ash has become an increasing problem as it accumulates on our land and in our water.

The heavy metals in coal ash such as arsenic, lead, mercury and copper, when released into the environment, cause health problems to humans and animals. Because there are no federal regulations for the storage of coal ash, and it is much cheaper for companies to store the coal ash improperly (by not lining landfills or moving coal ash offsite to less populated areas), these poisonous chemicals become airborne and leach into our water.

Making coal ash disposal safer

Shifting away from burning coal will eliminate the coal ash disposal problem. In the meantime, we need to make sure the public is protected from existing and newly generated coal ash. Unfortunately, state law does not protect Kentuckians and the federal EPA has delayed safeguards that they have acknowledged for years are needed. In April 2012, KFTC joined a national coalition of community groups to sue the EPA, asking that the EPA be ordered to implement the protections required by law.

Learn More:

    Impacts on health
    KFTC Coal Ash Campaign
    Analysis of EPA coal ash proposal (download)

Issue Area(s):