PORTLAND - Diane Hofner intends to carry her efforts to limit the public's exposure to bottom ash beyond the Town of Portland.
So far, these efforts have led the Portland Town Board to discontinue accepting bottom ash produced at the NRG Power Plant in Dunkirk to use as snow and ice control on the town's roads.
Town Supervisor Dan Schrantz said the board decided to stop accepting the bottom ash until the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the federal Environmental Protection Agency determine its safety.
The ash is still applied to town roads as a traction agent.
"In December, we called a halt to hauling any more ash into our stockpile, because we were told the regulatory agencies would be making a decision shortly on its beneficial use determination," he said.
At a special board meeting held to discuss the continued use of bottom ash, Schrantz read a letter from Kathleen Prather, a DEC Beneficial Use and Special Projects specialist with the Bureau of Solid Waste, Reduction and Recycling.
The letter noted the use of coal combustion bottom ash is allowed under current department regulation.
"Coal combustion bottom ash (may be) used as a traction agent on roadways, parking lots and other driving surfaces," Prather stated.
She added the regulation does not require chemical analysis of CCBA when it is used as a traction agent.
Portland Highway Superintendent Chuck Kelley had several town roads, shoulders and yards tested anyway by David J. Maille, a consultant with Brookside Laboratories, Inc. of North East, Pa.
In a report presented at the special board meeting, Maille pointed out that the metals found in the collected soil basically reflected contents that appear naturally in Portland's soil.
"It's pretty tame stuff," he said.
The tests conducted on the collected soils covered their arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, selenium and zinc content.
Prather's letter did note the DECs solid waste regulations are currently going through review, evaluation and revision "to meet evolving technology and scientific understanding."
Information provided by Portland and others will be considered as the evaluation the current regulations regarding beneficial use of coal combustion byproducts such as bottom ash, Prather's letter said.
The EPA's proposed coal combination residuals rulemaking will also be considered in the revision, the letter noted.
Hofner wants the regulatory agencies to also follow through with an investigation into health issues.
"Smoking is no longer permitted in restaurants and asbestos is being removed from public access facilities.
" I think bottom ash has a health impact similar to smoking and asbestos," she said.
At the Portland Town Board's special meeting, Hofner said currently, there is no law stopping the use of bottom ash as a traction agent.
But, she said, the regulations that are already on the books should be enforced or changed.
"You are playing a very dangerous game and what benefits do you derive, other than getting the bottom ash for free," she said.
In response, Kelley said there is a tremendous benefit to using bottom ash.
"It keeps control on snow and ice and saves tax money," he said, adding he has enough bottom ash stored to last through this winter and into a portion of next year's winter.
Ellicott Road resident Laurie Ashline said she recognizes the town has a working system in place to deal with ice and snow.
But, she said, "We must be responsible stewards of the land. How much toxins is it safe to add to the environment?" she asked.
Answering her own question, she said "None".
Hofner suggested the town board "take a good close look at alternatives"
She was told these alternatives, such as sand and salt, were being explored.
The cost of these materials will increase the town budget proportionately, it was noted.
Speaking at the end of the meeting, Councilman Rick Manzella said he would like to see the use of bottom ash as a snow and ice control on Portland roads discontinued.
"Our next year's budget could reflect the use of other traction materials," he said.
Hofner said she isn't going to give up her pursuit of the bottom ash controversy if Portland decides to cease using it.
"My efforts involve local communities such as Pomfret, Arkwright and West Dunkirk and others across the nation. There are 130 million tons of bottom ash produced each year and half of that amount is classified as beneficial use," she said, adding, "There is a better way of disposing of it that won't harm the environment or human health."
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