An Evaluation of Coal Ash Disposal Methods and Their Potential Impacts to Human Health and the Environment

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NORBERG, NATALIE BARBARA. An evaluation of coal ash disposal methods and their potential impacts to human health and the environment. Coal ash, the residue leftover from the burning of coal in power plants, is one of the largest waste products produced in the United States. Although coal ash contains an array of heavy metals, it is subject to the same disposal regulations as household garbage. The two most common disposal methods for coal ash are landfills and surface impoundments. Each of these disposal methods has limitations, and there is concern as to whether these disposal methods are allowing contamination of surface water, groundwater, and air. This literature review aimed to evaluate the potential negative impacts of coal ash disposal methods on human health and aquatic ecosystems. Results of this review indicate that surface impoundments and landfills provide little harm to humans and aquatic life. However, current disposal methods are not infallible, and it would be beneficial to find ways to recycle and reuse coal ash to limit the amount that enters the environment.



coal ash, surface impoundments, landfills, heavy metals, human health, aquatic organisms