Coal Combustion Wastes: New Concerns About an Old Problem

EPA Grant Number: R827581
Title: Coal Combustion Wastes: New Concerns About an Old Problem
Investigators: Congdon, Justin D. , Hopkins, William A. , Rowe, C. L.
Institution: Savannah River Ecology Laboratory , University of Georgia
Current Institution: Savannah River Ecology Laboratory
EPA Project Officer: Hiscock, Michael
Project Period: August 15, 1999 through August 14, 2000
Project Amount: $67,698
RFA: Futures: Detecting the Early Signals (1999) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Water , Sustainability , Land and Waste Management , Ecosystems , Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration


The objective of this project is to compile a comprehensive review and synthesis of the literature on coal combustion wastes. Until recently, the physiological and ecological effects of coal ash in natural systems have been understudied. Accumulation of trace elements in organisms from habitats polluted with coal ash has been found to be associated with sub-lethal, system-wide problems (developmental, morphological, physiological, behavioral and endocrine disruption). Based upon the recent findings, it is important that this environmental problem receive increased attention from the regulatory and scientific communities. The findings that coal ash can present substantial stresses to various types of animals in aquatic and terrestrial habitats emphasizes a need for publication and distribution of a comprehensive statement concerning coal ash. The synthesis produced will provide the EPA with an objective statement of the environmental effects of coal ash, based upon the most recent, peer-reviewed studies. The publication will also provide a guide for future regulatory and environmental research needs associated with a continued reliance on coal combustion.


We are collaborating to publish in the peer-reviewed literature a comprehensive synthesis of current knowledge about the physiological and ecological ramifications of exposure to coal combustion wastes. Because most of the information on biological responses to coal ash has been collected within the past several years, the monograph that we produce will alert the regulatory and scientific communities to the environmental threats associated with this source of pollution. The document we prepare will address the following topics: national and global production of coal ash, methods of disposal and reuse, chemical properties of coal combustion wastes, physical and biological transport of ash-related contaminants among habitats, contaminant uptake in biota and specific biological responses to coal ash pollution, potential for population, community, and ecosystem level modifications due to coal ash disposal, suggested areas for future research, and potential strategies for minimizing environmental risks of coal ash in the future.

Expected Results:

The monograph produced will be beneficial to both the scientific and regulatory communities. Fellow researchers will benefit by having a comprehensive volume that will identify the work to date. Thus, the manuscript will be the foundation from which future research on coal combustion wastes, as well as trace elements in general, can emerge. More importantly, our efforts will be useful to the EPA as they attempt to identify potential future risks to environmental health, based upon the conclusions and predictions of experts in pollution research. Recent reports by the EPA (1988, 1997) did not address the biological and ecological effects of coal ash, since the biological risks associated with coal ash were previously unknown. By completing our synthesis of recent findings, we will provide the EPA with a tool to evaluate the potential that coal ash represents as a future environmental problem.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 8 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 1 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Fossil fuel, Electricity, Water Pollution, Heavy metals, Arsenic, Cadmium, Selenium, Ecotoxicology, Sublethal effects., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Air, Waste, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Bioavailability, climate change, Fate & Transport, Ecological Risk Assessment, Atmospheric Sciences, Chemistry and Materials Science, Incineration/Combustion, Exp. Research/future, Futures, coal combustion wastes, emerging environmental problems, coal ash, fate and transport, environmental monitoring, trace elements, chemical composition, contaminant uptake, exploratory research, fossil fuel, water pollution, ecotoxicology, public policy, coal combustion, futures research, heavy metals

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report