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Information regarding application of coal bottom ash to Platte River
This Fact Sheet is also available as an Adobe Acrobat (PDF) file.
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On an infrequent basis, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has applied limited amounts of coal bottom ash to portions of the Platte River in late winter. The purpose of the applications is to promote gradual melting and prevent ice jams and flooding.
NEMA has a discharge permit from NDEQ which allows the application of bottom ash onto the ice on areas of the Platte River. NEMA only applies ash in years when it is determined that the likelihood of ice jams and flooding along the Platte are high, and the Governor has declared it to be an emergency situation. Applications have occurred in 1979, 1994, 2001 and 2010.
A number of citizens have raised questions about the potential environmental impacts of this practice, so NDEQ is providing the following information to explain more about the permitting requirements, and content of the bottom ash used in the process.
The permit process and requirements
The use of bottom ash for this purpose requires a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, issued by NDEQ to NEMA. This permit is renewed every five years, and is open for public comment during that process.
Before obtaining a permit, extensive analysis was performed to determine the impact the process would have on surface water. The ash was analyzed for heavy metals and other constituents, and a water quality analysis was conducted. NEMA’s permit application and related fact sheets provide this analysis data related to bottom ash from NPPD’s Sheldon Station at Hallam, and this is the only material allowed under the terms of the NPDES permit.
The NPDES permit was last renewed to NEMA in May, 2008, and is valid through June 30, 2013. The permit allows 0.5 pounds per square yard per application, or a total of 2 pounds per square yard per season.
Content of the bottom ash
Analysis of the bottom ash used in this process indicates that the material is mostly carbon, with what is determined to be an insignificant amount of metals and other constituents. In the permit, NDEQ requires that the ash that is applied may not contain levels of any constituent that would exceed either water quality or drinking water standards. Toxic Characteristic Leaching Property (TCLP) tests indicate that an extremely minor amount of any of these constituents would enter the environment, and that the application of this bottom ash, in the volumes prescribed in the permit, would not violate water quality or drinking water standards.
Due to public interest, NDEQ is posting the following items, which provide more detailed information about the project. On NDEQ’s web site, under “Topics of Interest”, copies of the following documents are available:
NPDES permit issued to NEMA in May, 2008
File Size 520 KB
2008 NPDES permit application
File Size 546 KB
2008 permit Fact Sheet
File Size 452 KB
Produced by: Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, P.O. Box 98922, Lincoln, NE 68509-8922; phone (402)471-2186. To view this, and other information related to our agency, visit our web site at www.deq.state.ne.us.
Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality
1200 "N" Street, Suite 400
P.O. Box 98922
Lincoln, Nebraska 68509