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Submitted by: Bill Pritchard

Last year, the EPA released a list of over 40 high hazard potential sites around the country that contain coal combustion residuals, which are commonly referred to as coal ash. This substance is a product of burning coal and is often stored in containment ponds or dams near electrical utilities. As coal ash leaches into the soil and spills into areas surrounding these facilities, there can be serious ramifications on human and animal health, residential areas, and the environment. These storage ponds hold fly ash, bottom ash, coal slag, and flue gas residues that contain toxic metals such as mercury, arsenic, selenium, cadmium, and leadall potentially toxic to people and wildlife.

Waste Generation

According to the EPAs website, the coal combustion process generates ash equal to about 10 percent of the original volume of the coal. About 95 percent of the ash is retained:

Fly ash is entrained with hot flue gases, trapped by stack filters, and accounts for about 74% of the ash generated. As a side note, certain cement and ready-mix companies that produce fly ash with their cement kilns have tried to come up with environmentally-friendly ways to use this fly ash.

Bottom ash, too large or heavy to be entrained, settles to the bottom of the boiler and accounts for about 20% of the ash generated

Boiler slag, formed when the ash melts under the intense heat, collects at the bottom of the boiler and in exhaust stack filters, and accounts for about 6% of the ash generated.

The average yearly generation of coal ash is about 61 million metric tons (MT). In 1990, the combustion of coal in utility and industrial boilers generated 61.6 million MT of coal ash and slags and 17.2 million MT of sludges.*

Due to several recent coal ash spills, the EPA and other federal regulatory agencies are cracking down on the assessment, maintenance, and clean up of coal ash storage ponds in the United States. These agencies will request information from facilities about their operations and then thoroughly review it to identify issues that need priority attention. Some agencies will also visit many of these facilities to see if the management units are structurally sound. The top five states that are home to these high hazard potential sites include: North Carolina, Arizona, Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia.

Although the risks associated with hazardous coal ash sites can be devastating to the communities surrounding them, this is a chance for our government to take a more active role in making sure electrical (and other energy) utility sites are operating responsibly. This is also a great opportunity for insurance agents to assist their clientsthose who operate energy utilities as well as contractors who may be hired to clean them upand make sure they have adequate environmental insurance. Take this opportunity to help your insureds protect themselves from a potentially disastrous financial loss and secure the future of their businesses and workforces.

* Information sited from the EPAs webpage on coal ash: http://www.epa.gov/radiation/tenorm/coalandcoalash.html

About the Author: Bill Pritchard is the President of Beacon Hill Associates, Inc., a wholesale insurance broker specializing in the placement of

environmental insurance

and other specialty coverages such as

Site Specific Pollution


packaged insurance coverages

for agents nationwide. Beacon Hill Associates, Inc. can be found online at http://www.b-h-a.com



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