Fly-ash is a hazardous environmental byproduct from coal-fired electric power generation and industrial boilers.
For decades, utilities have disposed of coal ash dangerously, dumping it in unlined ponds and landfills where the toxins leak into groundwater. Some estimates state there are over 3 billion tons of legacy and “fresh” fly-ash waste in the U.S. alone. Many landfills and collection ponds are near large cities.
According to industry’s own data, 94% of the coal ash ponds in the United States are unlined. Unlined ponds are contaminating groundwater with toxins above levels that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency deems safe for drinking water.
Legal and technical experts from Earthjustice, the Environmental Integrity Project, and partner organizations located and analyzed the data disclosures from utilities that report groundwater monitoring data and found that 91% of these plants are contaminating groundwater with toxic substances at levels exceeding federal safe standards.
AquiPor’s permeable concrete can be used to sequester various harmful industrial waste by combining these materials with our catalytic binder. One such waste material we have been successfully testing in our mix designs is fly ash.
There are environmental and economic advantages to recycling this waste back into our concrete, but in addition to that, it creates some emerging properties that are very compelling for our permeable technology.
How about that...taking care of industrial waste that is contaminating groundwater and putting it into new, useful permeable material that can help improve groundwater and freshwater in our cities?!
It’s nice to see that the concept of “sponge cities” is starting to go mainstream. We’ve long believed that one of the most practical ways to improve urban water quality, facilitate sustainable water infrastructure, and generally make our cities more resilient in the face of climate change is to simply add more permeable surface area in our cities.
Wet regions and drought-stricken areas alike can benefit from a “spongier” approach to physical infrastructure. As the atmosphere warms, it holds more water, which can then result in flashier and quicker rain events. The challenge with these sudden rain bursts is that outdated municipal water infrastructure is easily overwhelmed. This leads to extreme flooding and polluted waterways.
Undoubtedly, there have been unintended consequences to urbanization. The amount of impervious surfaces - in the form of streets, sidewalks, alleyways, and rooftops - is one of them. Land that once absorbed rainfall, returning it to the natural water cycle, is now caked over with pavement. Rainfall now hits those surfaces and runs off to gutters and storm drains, picking up every pollutant and toxin in its path. This polluted runoff is expensive to treat at wastewater plants and every drop of water that doesn’t naturally re-enter the water cycle creates another unintended consequence that is even more dire - aquifer depletion.
At AquiPor, we’ve always thought of stormwater as an asset rather than a liability of waste. Large, quick rainfall can become very valuable for cities if they design their physical infrastructure in ways that can utilize it. There’s no better way to do that than getting it back into the ground naturally through porous concrete and other green infrastructure approaches.