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Old 12-21-2009, 10:30 AM   #1
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Default EPA, USDA push farmers to use coal waste on fields

Just wondering what others think about this issue - has it been discussed at all before?

The lead paragraph reads: "The federal government is encouraging farmers to spread a chalky waste from coal-fired power plants on their fields to loosen and fertilize soil even as it considers regulating coal wastes for the first time."

See EPA, USDA push farmers to use coal waste on fields - BusinessWeek for the entire article.
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Old 12-21-2009, 10:50 AM   #2
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Suunto, I just saw this article this morning myself, and was puzzled. It sure seems oxymoronic to spend gazillions removing the substances from coal-fired emissions only to turn around and use for crops. Either there is a big piece of the puzzle missing from the article, or a big piece of explaining owed to us by the EPA.
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Old 12-22-2009, 01:49 AM   #3
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"Just wondering what others think about this issue - has it been discussed at all before?" I don't know if it's been discussed before but there's something REALLY wrong with our Department of Agriculture for encouraging farmers to use toxic waste as a soil amendment for food crops. Our administration is considering regulating coal wastes but it never said it would regulate coal wastes and if it does you can bet it'll leave loopholes to continue subsidizing the coal industry... how ever can they turn a profit if they're forced to deal with their own toxic wastes??? And if you really want to do a slow burn, ‘Coal makes no sense in this day and age’ | Grist and Press Action ::: TVA Manages Easy PR Victory in Kingston Coal Ash Disaster I'm really really really sorry but have we lost our minds that we're rolling over on this? This is INSANITY. Do a google... coal ash is considerably more radioactive than nuclear waste. I first read about this from a pdf sent to me that's online, http://peer.org/docs/usda/09_15_10_ARS_letter.pdf then I read about it again at PEER, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility: News Releases We should all be disgusted with what's going on. Does anyone realize there are no federal standards regulating the use of this toxic waste on food crops and the 180,000 million tons we used to use a year on food crops like corn almost doubled in 2009 THANKS to the new partnership between the USDA and the EPA???
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Old 12-22-2009, 04:36 AM   #5
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Uhhh... um.. coal ash is not more radioactive than spent nuclear fuel.

That's why spent nuclear fuel is contained. Since it is contained (hopefully...), you could say there is more radioactivity from coal plants released into the environment than is released by nuclear power plants. That's the source of the... confusion, let's call it.

Here is a quote from the editor's note at the end of the Scientific American article called, "Coal Ash is More Radioactive Than Nuclear Waste", which made a great title for an article, even though anyone who took high school physics and got a D() would know better:

Coal Ash Is More Radioactive than Nuclear Waste: Scientific American

"In fact, the fly ash emitted by a power plant—a by-product from burning coal for electricity—carries into the surrounding environment 100 times more radiation than a nuclear power plant producing the same amount of energy."
Our source for this statistic is Dana Christensen, an associate lab director for energy and engineering at Oak Ridge National Laboratory as well as 1978 paper in Science authored by J.P. McBride and colleagues, also of ORNL.

As a general clarification, ounce for ounce, coal ash released from a power plant delivers more radiation than nuclear waste shielded via water or dry cask storage.
Coal ash is NOT more radioactive than nuclear waste | CEJournal

That being said, no, coal ash on crop fields doesn't sound like a good idea to me!
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Old 12-22-2009, 05:39 AM   #6
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I was curious - there has to be something about the coal waste that's a perceived benefit for the crops. Apparently it's because it's heavy on the Gypsum, which is considered to be incredible for repairing compacted soils and for loosening clay and other hard soil.

Is there some other reason they're pushing it that I didn't catch?

In addition to the fact that there are small amounts of toxic materials in the stuff, I'm struck by the fact that it's a synthetic form of gypsum. That would make me question whether it would still have the same results in the garden as natural gypsum. You can't fool mother nature. She usually gets the last laugh when we try.
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