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August 12, 2013
EPA seeks feedback on CCR proposal

EPA’s work on developing a major rule on the disposal of coal combustion residuals (CCRs) has run into unanticipated technical issues for which the Agency is requesting public comment through a notice of data availability (NODA). 

In June 2010, the EPA proposed two regulatory options for the disposal of CCR in landfills and surface impoundments by electric power plants.  One option would require that these materials be managed as hazardous wastes under RCRA Subtitle C.  The alternative would classify CCRs as nonhazardous wastes under RCRA Subtitle D. 

The current NODA addresses complex issues that will not be quickly resolved and will probably have a considerable impact on the timing of any final federal action on the regulation of CCRs.  This is the second NODA associated with the CCR proposal for which the EPA has requested public comment. 

Beneficial use, timing, overfills

Briefly, the Agency is requesting public comment on the following:

  • Differentiating between CCR disposal and beneficial use based on the amount of material.  The EPA notes that a stabilized fly ash base course for roadway construction (beneficial use) may be on the order of 6 to 12 inches thick while hundreds of thousands to millions of tons of CCRs may be sent to individual surface impoundments and landfills (disposal). 
  • Timing requirements for closing a CCR surface impoundment/landfill.  The 2010 proposal stated that closure would need to commence no more than 30 days after receipt of the last CCR delivery or if no CCR was received in a year.  The EPA also proposed that closure would need to be completed within 180 days of the last CCR delivery.  The EPA received many comments objecting to these requirements.  The EPA now concedes that there are circumstances wherein these timing requirements would be impossible to meet.  For example, dewatering a large surface impoundment can take years.  Also, coal plants sometimes alternate CCR deliveries to multiple impoundments, and one impoundment is not closed, although it may not receive a delivery for more than a year.
  • Overfills.  Overfills are CCR landfills that partially or completely cover a closed CCR surface impoundment or landfill.  The EPA says that in writing the proposal, it was not aware that CCRs were managed in overfills; this means that under the proposal, overfills would need to be managed according to the closure requirements for surface impoundments and landfills and be subject to the same technical requirements.  In the NODA, the Agency states that technical issues unique to overfills may warrant modifications to technical standards to address items such as location of overfills, liner requirements, leachate collection, inspection, and monitoring.   

New studies

The NODA also requests comment on whether the EPA should make use of new information the Agency has obtained.  The data include a draft human and ecological risk assessment of CCRs, data/reports on people who fish near coal-fired power plants, information on groundwater plumes that may exist between a CCR management unit and a drinking water well, updated information on leaching associated with CCR, and an EPA-developed list linking the location of each coal plant with the closest receiving water body.

The EPA emphasizes that it is requesting public comment only on the items described in the latest NODA and is not opening any other part of the proposal for comment.

The NODA was published in the August 2, 2013, FR.

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