Source: National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, Silver Spring, Md.
Testifying July 22 on Capitol Hill, NRMCA President Robert Garbini noted that a potential Environmental Protection Agency plan to classify coal ash as a hazardous waste would exert a significant economic toll on producers nationwide, especially small operators, and make beneficial use of ASTM C618 material in concrete more onerous. He detailed for the House Small Business Subcommittee on Rural Development, Entrepreneurship and Trade environmental benefits of using fly ash in concrete, i.e., longer-lasting structures, plus sizeable reduction in landfill-bound waste, raw materials extraction, energy consumption, and carbon dioxide emissions. Particular emphasis was placed on the role of fly ash in minimizing the overall carbon footprint of ready mixed production, a major contribution to sustainable construction practices.
The ready mixed concrete industry is the largest beneficial user of fly ash, Garbini affirmed. In 2008 alone, the concrete industry used 15.8 million tons of fly ash in the manufacture of concrete; fly ash is by far the most widely used supplementary cementitious material.
Titled Coal Combustion Byproducts: Potential Impact of a Hazardous Waste Designation on Small Businesses in the Recycling Industry, the subcommittee hearing was prompted by EPA's formal proposal regarding classification of coal combustion residuals (CCRs), including fly ash. Among two rule-related options for which the agency has opened a public comment period through September 20, the first classifies disposal-bound CCRs under Subtitle C of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which essentially establishes fly ash as a hazardous waste (called "special waste" in the proposed rule) and creates a comprehensive program of federally enforceable, management and disposal requirements.
The second option would allow all CCRs to maintain their current exemption from Subtitle C requirements, instead using EPA's Subtitle D to set performance standards for CCR impoundments and waste management facilities; enforcement would occur primarily through state regulatory agencies and citizen suits. Under both options, EPA encourages CCR diversion for beneficial use, e.g., fly ash in concrete, and exempts such materials from new regulations. In response, NRMCA asserts that Subtitle C designation for disposal-bound fly ash would lead to increased ready mixed production costs, liability issues, stricter state laws for beneficial use, and potential elimination of fly ash used in concrete.
If a concrete producer continues to use fly ash despite the risks, it will likely pay more for the fly ash, since both EPA and the electric utilities have suggested the additional cost for disposal will be passed on to consumers, including concrete producers, Garbini predicted. The industry is also averse to taking risks due to potential liability of handling a labeled hazardous waste and, therefore, may choose to no longer use fly ash.
We also believe that many states will establish new laws that further limit the beneficial use of fly ash. For example, the state of Maryland, in a recent proposed rule, requires any product containing fly ash to be disposed of in a facility authorized to accept fly ash. If the EPA declares fly ash disposal as Subtitle C, then states may change their regulations to force concrete crushed after its service life from demolition of buildings and pavements, or from waste stream of new construction, to be handled in this manner.
It has taken several decades of education to convince engineers and architects to specify fly ash in concrete. We suspect that the stigma and fear of liability will drive specifying engineers, architects and end users to disallow the use of fly ash in concrete, Garbini concluded.