The Uses of Coal Ash

Coal ash from coal burnt as fuel has been described as both an environmental danger and an environmental asset. Renewable energy sources are often pushed as the answer to fuel sources such as coal. It may help to know more about why people take these opposing views.

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Recently there was a fuel coal ash spill in Kingston, Tennessee. The coal ash involved measured 5.4 million cubic yards.

This has raised some questions about the safety of fuel coal ash and also caused some people to ask, “Where might I find coal ash without being aware of it?”

The answers may surprise you, as coal ash may be in your carpet or under your golf course.

When coal is burnt for fuel, one of the byproducts is coal ash. So it stands to reason that as long as we use coal as a source of fuel, we will have to think about ways in which the ash can be utilized properly.

Coal: Opposing Viewpoints

There are three types of coal ash. These are:

  • Fly ash
  • Bottom ash
  • Boiler slag

Fly ash accounts for approximately 74% of the ash generated. Fly ash and other residue may be stored in a coal ash impoundment. A coal ash impoundment may contain millions of tons of coal ash.

A team from the University of Pittsburgh will conduct a study in the summer of 2010, to determine whether toxic chemicals are being leached from the coal ash impoundment at Little Blue, West Virginia, U.SA, into the water table. The study will utilize well water testing.

Well water testing can be used to determine the effects of coal ash on the groundwater in an area that is at risk of contamination. Homeowners who experience a coal ash spill in their area, or live in the vicinity of a coal ash impoundment and have private drinking water supplies, may use well water testing to ensure that their water supply is safe.

Coal ash is not yet regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), even though it contains mercury, arsenic and lead, which are all toxic substances. Instead each of the United States is responsible for conducting regulation of the ash it produces. However the EPA does approve the use of coal ash in construction.

In 1996 approximately 22% of the fly ash produced was used for construction.

Video-Use of Coal Ash in Concrete and RMC Plants

Its construction applications are many:

  • It’s used for making cement and concrete products
  • It’s used in structural fills and embankments
  • It’s used as mineral filler in asphalt pavement
  • It’s used to stabilize waste materials
  • It’s used to level out uneven terrain on sites including housing developments, malls and runways.

To be used in this way, coal ash must meet certain requirements.

For example, in Portland Cement Concrete, fly ash must meet the standards of ASTM C618. The ASTM is the American Society for Testing and Materials.

The ash used to produce Portland cement actually allows some cutbacks in using oil. It would have taken 55 gallons to produce one ton of cement.


Coal ash has also been found useful in the making of:

  • Paints and plastics
  • Kitchen countertops
  • Soil for growing plants. It increases crop yields.
  • Bowling balls
  • Vinyl flow covering
  • Shower stalls

Studies have been conducted to determine the safety of some but not all, of these applications.

Green energy is being pushed as an alternative source of energy. Green energy from renewable energy resources is preferred to energy from non renewable energy resources like oil and coal.

Green energy sources include solar energy and wind energy. Green energy is also derived from geothermal power. Tide energy is also being used as a source of green energy.

When we reduce our electricity consumption, we cut the amount of coal ash that is produced by power companies that burn coal as part of their production process. There is also a better way to use electricity. This allows you to enjoy electrical products without spending an excessive amount of money on your energy bill. Click Here!” target=”_blank”>Find out more here.

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13 Responses to “The Uses of Coal Ash”
  1. athena goodlight Says...

    On October 8, 2009 at 8:38 am

    Interesting. It’s an excellent recycling idea.


  2. SharifaMcFarlane Says...

    On October 16, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    True Athena.
    I am in favour of methods that I know will make the coal ash inert.
    Thanks for your comment.


  3. Sharif Ishnin Says...

    On August 10, 2010 at 3:56 am

    I’m really unaware of coal ash. As long it is made use properly with no harm to the environment then that should be a good thing. Of course things must change if new test reveal that they are unsafe.A very good post that I missed.


  4. SharifaMcFarlane Says...

    On August 10, 2010 at 4:39 am

    They’re trying to find ways to use to safely Sharif.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.


  5. Francois Hagnere Says...

    On August 17, 2010 at 5:00 am

    A very informative and well researched post, my friend. I remember in the North of France, where mines were so active, the pavements were made of coal ash. That is a lot time ago. Thank you Sharifa.


  6. SharifaMcFarlane Says...

    On August 17, 2010 at 8:56 am

    Thanks for sharing that Francois.


  7. yes me Says...

    On December 7, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    Cheers Sharifa


  8. SharifaMcFarlane Says...

    On December 9, 2010 at 8:20 am

    Cheers Matt


  9. gaby7 Says...

    On April 14, 2011 at 6:23 am

    Hadn’t really come across coal ash, but I read something to this effect concerning some parts of the US where this is becoming an environmental catastrophe!


  10. SharifaMcFarlane Says...

    On April 18, 2011 at 12:04 am

    There was a spill not too long ago that caused significant environmental damage.


  11. Raj the Tora Says...

    On June 9, 2011 at 12:01 am

    Process should be in place so that the damage is minimal.


  12. SharifaMcFarlane Says...

    On June 28, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    It\’s the best way.


  13. Rohit Sharma Says...

    On October 13, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    I just hve got some information that we can produce Electricity with the coal ash by mixing some water in it

    I’ve tried its really work


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