NC's Coal Ash Problem Can Be Benefit to Concrete Industry

Doug Enright 

Last February, North Carolina dealt with the worst environmental disaster in the state’s history. A storm water pipe below a Duke Energy coal ash pond collapsed, causing more than 40,000 tons of coal ash to spill uncontrolled into the Dan River. Duke Energy, the state, and outside help rushed to stop the spill and keep the Dan River from being taken over by coal ash. It’s also forced Duke Energy to try and figure out a better method for dealing with the 150 million tons of coal ash across North Carolina.

State leaders, community leaders and those that live near coal ash storage areas across the state are working together to find a solution that benefits the environment. State leaders are adamant that there aren’t enough landfills that can safely store the ash, so they must develop or come up with new ways to dispose of the coal ash.

After the accident, the North Carolina Coal Ash Management Commission was formed to help deal with the issue in the state. This is where the concrete industry comes into play. Coal ash can actually help make concrete even more durable and last much longer than it normally does, so for NC concrete plants and manufacturers, being able to use the coal ash within the state can help a variety of building projects up and down the east coast.

Coal ash itself isn’t beneficial, but fly ash, which is the fine powder of coal ash is beneficial when mixed with concrete. North Carolina already uses coal ash in concrete, most notably when the Panther’s Stadium was built. Even the Duke Energy Building in downtown Charlotte is made with the mixture. By working with concrete plants within the state, NC can deal with the coal ash issue in the state, but only once they find a way to safely transport and recycle it.

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