To gauge the impact of RCRA Subtitle C CCR listing on fly-ash use among producers, Lionel Lemay, National Ready Mixed Concrete Association Senior Vice President-Sustainable Development, outlined results of a survey canvassing its 1,500 members. Respondents indicated:
- 69 percent will continue to use fly ash, if permitted in specifications; 31 percent will not for fear of liability. ÎYesÌ respondents cited cost and environmental benefits, but expressed skepticism regarding continued fly ash inclusion in specifications.
- 71 percent anticipated stigma associated with concrete containing fly ash; 29 percent did not.
- 63 percent perceived potential liability as a supplier of concrete containing fly ash (though fly ash in concrete would be regarded as beneficial use and exempt from Subtitle C regulations); 37 percent did not.
- 71 percent envisioned implications of RCRA Subtitle C for fly ash handling, storage and use; 29 percent did not foresee additional regulations.
- 39 percent of respondent producers affirmed knowledge of specific instances where beneficial use of fly ash was adversely affected by stigma, e.g., Los Angeles Unified School District banned fly ash in concrete based on EPA proposed rule.
Thus curtailing fly ash use, a Îhazardous wasteÌ designation stands to jeopardize significant benefits Lemay cites: Presently, the concrete industry is the largest beneficial user of fly ash, which totaled 15.8 million tons in 2008. While not all fly ash suits SCM applications, the concrete industry could increase consumption to more than 30 million tons per year by 2020, reducing carbon footprint by 20 percent. Fly ash use in concrete produces longer-lasting structures and reduces waste, raw material extraction, energy required for production, and air emissions. In addition, since fly ash is less expensive than portland cement, it leads to lower raw material and end-product costs.
Conversely, unintended consequences of a hazardous waste designation for CCR will be a 10 percent increase in concrete production costs, Lemay notes, whether fly ash is used (due to utilities' greater hazardous-waste disposal costs passed along to customers) or not (cement is more expensive). Risk-averse producers will be wary of greater liability, as states establish stricter laws, e.g., Maryland's proposed rule stipulating that any product containing fly ash be disposed in an approved facility, impacting even demolition debris and new construction waste streams. Perception of fly ash as a hazardous waste and fear of liability will cause specifiers to disallow fly ash, while the current rate of failing infrastructure increases at least twofold without fly ash in concrete.