Curbing air pollution from coal plants can lead to more ash in landfills
The growing pressure to clean up emissions from coal-fired power plants is good for air quality, but it’s got a sooty lining: pollution capture could end up filling landfills with millions more tons of toxic ash. More than one-third of the ash currently generated by coal plants is recycled for other uses, but the chemicals commonly used to capture pollutants out of coal-plant emissions change the composition of ash, often making it unusable. To the landfill it goes; the U.S. EPA does not classify coal ash as hazardous waste, even though it naturally contains arsenic and mercury, which can seep into groundwater. Equipment to remove pollutants without making ash unusable is available but can be up to four times more expensive for coal plants, and your health is totally not worth that much.