Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Alaska environmental groups sound the alarm about the danger of coal ash in a new report. The report cooperatively produced by Alaska Community Action on Toxics and the Northern Alaska Environmental Center looks at the ash leftover from coal burning at Fairbanks area power plants that’s commonly used as fill. Alaska Community Action on Toxics Environmental Health Coordinator Sara Petras lead author of the report, says ash from local power plants, residential coal boilers and storage piles was analyzed. Petras says, in almost all cases, toxic heavy metals were found at higher levels than back round soil.
Petras says the study findings are consistent with similar analysis done on coal ash in the lower 48. The study says power plant stack scrubbers that remove heavy metals from exhaust, leave more of the toxins in ash. Lisa Hughes, with the Northern Alaska Environmental Center in Fairbanks says pollution from coal ash has raised concerns nationwide, and locally.
Many tons of coal ash are produced daily in Fairbanks. It’s stored in large piles for use road substrate or fill for construction projects. Hughes says there was a coal ash pollution incident in Fairbanks last summer, when wind borne ash from a storage pile spread over the Tanana Valley Farmers Market
Hughes says the local handling and use of coal ash warrants an investigation by the state. Department of Environmental Conservation Air Quality Program Director Alice Edwards says coal ash is currently regulated like other particulates.
Edwards says concerns have prompted talks about additional air pollution mitigation measures. The environmental groups are also worried about soil and water contamination from coal ash. DEC. solid waste program coordinator Doug Butyne says the Department has conducted its own tests on local coal ash samples.
Butyne says the test results warrant coal ash’s continued regulation as an inert material. He says storage regulations may need to be looked at, but that no changes are in the works.
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