The Facts about Coal Ash


Fig. 1

Coal ash impacts our health, our air, and our water.

The following image by Earthjustice describes the widespread issue that coal ash presents to over 1400 communities across the United States.

Additional Resources:
Coal Ash: The Toxic Threat to Our Health & Environment, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Sept. 2010

Duke Energy Releases Critical Dam Safety Information

for Coal Ash Sites across North Carolina After Legal Action by SELC. The inundation maps make it clear that the risks of loss are too high to settle for capping any of the coal ash sites in place. All coal ash must be excavated to prevent catastrophes identified in the worst case scenarios.

October 2017: 

We have a lot of coal ash to clean up! however,

Worker safety must be prioritized.

More than two dozen of the Kingston cleanup workers are dead and more than 70 are terminally ill with cancer.  

Sources: Kingston coal ash spill workers treated as 'expendables,' lawsuit by sick and dying contends
TVA now posting coal ash warning signs; lawsuit claims clean-up workers were never warned


Fig. 2

Coal ash is safest in a solid form.

Coal ash is used in a variety of industrial products, including concrete, cinder blocks and gypsum board. The properties of coal ash reduce the costs and water usage associated with creating concrete. It also lengthens the life of our infrastructure.

The Lilies of the Field highlights an additional encapsulation process using a polymer to create value-added lightweight products out of coal ash, under the direction of researchers from NC State A&T University. 

By turning coal ash into a solid form through encapsulation in either concrete or a polymer, the microscopic particulate matter is no longer able to enter our bodies through the air or water. 

Source:  Reuses for Fly Ash , The Wire, OPPD, August 22nd, 2016

Source: Reuses for Fly Ash, The Wire, OPPD, August 22nd, 2016


Fig. 3

The US imports coal ash from overseas to use by the concrete industry. 

Because of a current national shortage of coal ash, concrete companies are importing coal ash from foreign countries. This means that barges of coal ash are traveling by ships into our ports and placing coal ash on train cars and transporting it all across our country. We know from testing that there is a spike in air pollution along railroad corridors associated with the coal ash particulate. This continuous pollution through lower income neighborhoods results in higher toxic exposure of families of color, which is one element of environmental injustice. Therefore, we believe in minimizing the transportation of coal ash and using local coal ash for local projects. 

As coal-fired power plants shift to natural gas, the coal ash shortage will grow and lead to the importation of even more coal ash. Meanwhile we have 150 million tons in North Carolina alone polluting local groundwater. In South Carolina, the removal of coal ash from basins resulted in the immediate improvement of arsenic in groundwater, which is why we do not want to see any coal ash buried in place. Community members see it as a continued threat to their health. Industry sees it as a wasted raw material. 

additional Resources:
Officials in dark over port ash lease, Carteret Co News-Times, July 21, 2017

NC is trying to figure out how to store millions of tons of coal ash. Concrete companies say they need it, but can't get it.


Fig. 4

Current closure timelines prevents recycling of larger coal ash sites.

The current federal CCR law requires that sites be closed within fifteen years of starting closure plans. According to Duke Energy, larger sites would require twenty years for closure if basins are reburied on an on-site lined landfill. That may be even longer if relying on the reprocessing industry to reuse the ash in development of infrastructure projects. We believe that reuse coal ash and encapsulating it in a solid form, like cement, is the safest storage solution and worth attempting. In South Carolina, clean up has been ahead of schedule

From  The SEFA Group , leading the clean-up in South Carolina

From The SEFA Group, leading the clean-up in South Carolina



Through our research, advocacy and development of the The Lilies of the Field Project, we hope to demonstrate that a combination of encapsulation solutions will lead to the resolution of the coal ash crisis facing our country.