New Coal Waste Project Funded

Shane Butler received funding from the Illinois Clean Coal Institute for a project to understand the nature of coal combustion by-products as manure fertilizer additives. Heavy metal contamination is a major focus of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as such contamination poses risks to both human health and the environment. Therefore, regulations concerning materials that contain heavy metals will continue to focus on methods of limiting their emissions from coal-fire power plants. Flue gas desulfurization (FGD) is one form of coal scrubber used in Illinois that produces waste materials containing variable concentrations of these trace elements. The use of FGD scrubbers and their by-products is expected to increase because of continued stringent federal and state regulations requiring significant reduction in sulfur oxide and other air pollutants, such as mercury. The concentrations of trace elements in coal combustion by-products (CCBs) depend on coal quality as well as the combustion process. Determining what heavy metals are present and the possible environmental impacts of those materials represent important issues in determining their use or disposal. If it can be determined that the environmental impacts of regulated trace elements can be minimized by their use as a fertilizer additive, that new use might be beneficial to agricultural practices. Therefore, the characterization of the initial CCBs, manure samples, and their end products is required to evaluate their potential impacts on surface and groundwater quality.