Back in October 2011 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was weighing two options: One, continue to regulate coal ash as nonhazardous; or, two, ignoring science to classify it as a “hazardous waste”.
EPA has for some strange reason determined on numerous occasions that coal ash should not be classified as hazardous waste. Tell that to sick coal miners dying of black lung disease…
Certainly no EPA scientist would want to breath coal ash in their lungs, but they don’t have to…Is coal ash hazardous, Scientific America thinks so, see article: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=coal-ash-waste-hazardous-standard-regulation
The EPA came to that “conclusion” most recently in 2000, over a decade ago, under the Clinton administration.
In fact, EPA’s finding went even further, arguing that ‘‘Regulating coal ash as a hazardous waste would be “environmentally counterproductive” because it would unnecessarily stigmatize coal ash and impede its beneficial use.’’ Whatever the hell that means.
“Obviously the EPA and Congress are playing political games with people’s lives again”, says Tommy Little of Charlotte, N.C. an environmental activist with the Occupy Charlotte movement. “Anyone with any common sense knows it is dangerous”, he said.
Meanwhile, due to the uncertainty created by EPA’s inaction on this rule, the coal ash industry is crashing. Regulating coal ash as a hazardous waste they claim flies in the face of years of scientific research and EPA’s own findings. Which is rather stupid, since it can kill a person who ingests it by way of smoke or breathing in that toxic dust…
Coal ash as a hazardous waste would force unworkable requirements on our electric utilities, they say, despite the fact that it would save lives – resulting in “serious economic consequences” in their words for American job creators and American families.
They are, of course, referring to coal miners – who work under unbelievable conditions, without adequate safety measures, which the industry claims it can’t afford like oxygen masks and dust masks. Coal mining is also extremely dangerous, but without it America is in deep do-do, because we need coal to run electric generating facilities…
It is a serious problem.
Historically, coal mining has been a very dangerous activity and the list of historical coal mining disasters is a long one. In the US alone, more than 100,000 coal miners were killed in accidents over the past century, with more than 3,200 dying in 1907 alone. Open cut hazards are principally mine wall failures and vehicle collisions; underground mining hazards include suffocation, gas poisoning, roof collapse and gas explosions.
Firedamp explosions can trigger the much more dangerous coal dust up explosions, which can engulf an entire pit. Most of these risks can be greatly reduced in modern mines, and multiple fatality incidents are now rare in some parts of the developed world. Modern mining in the US results in approximately 30 deaths per year due to mine accidents.
However, in lesser developed countries and some developing countries, many miners continue to die annually, either through direct accidents in coal mines or through adverse health consequences from working under poor conditions.
China, in particular, has the highest number of coal mining related deaths in the world, with official statistics claiming that 6,027 deaths occurred in 2004. To compare, 28 deaths were reported in the US in the same year.
In 2008 then- President George W. Bush stated that coal was the most reliable source of electricity. However, in 2011 President Barack Obama said that the US should rely more on “clean” sources of energy that emit lower or no “carbon dioxide pollution”…
ADVERSE HEALTH EFFECTS
Chronic lung diseases, such as pneumoconiosis (black lung) were once common in miners, leading to reduced life expectancy. In some mining countries black lung is still common, with 4,000 new cases of black lung every year in the US (4 percent of workers annually) and 10,000 new cases every year in China (0.2 percent of workers).Rates may be higher than reported in some regions.
Build-ups of a hazardous gas are known as damps, possibly from the German word “Dampf” which means steam or vapor:
- Black damp: a mixture of carbon dioxide and nitrogen in a mine can cause suffocation, and is formed as a result of corrosion in enclosed spaces so removing oxygen from the atmosphere.
- After damp: similar to black damp, after damp consists of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and nitrogen and forms after a mine explosion.
- Fire damp: consists of mostly methane, a highly flammable gas that explodes between 5% and 15% – at 25% it causes asphyxiation.
- Stink damp: so named for the rotten egg smell of the hydrogen sulphide gas, stink damp can explode and is also very toxic.
- White damp: air containing carbon monoxide which is toxic, even at low concentrations…
Coal mining can result in a number of adverse effects on the environment. Surface mining of coal completely eliminates existing vegetation, destroys the genetic soil profile, displaces or destroys wildlife and habitat, degrades air quality, alters current land uses, and to some extent permanently changes the general topography of the area mined.
This often results in a scarred landscape with no scenic value.
Rehabilitation or reclamation mitigates some of these concerns and is required by US Federal Law, specifically the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977.
Mine tailing dumps produce acid mine drainage, which is like a toxic soup, which can seep into waterways and aquifers, with consequences on ecological and human health. If underground mine tunnels collapse, this can cause subsidence of land surfaces. During actual mining operations, methane, a known greenhouse gas, may be released into the air. And by the movement, storage, and redistribution of soil, the community of microorganisms and nutrient cycling processes can be disrupted.