EPA issues coal combustion residuals rule revision

September 4, 2020

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published the final rule, Hazardous and Solid Waste Management System: Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals from Electric Utilities; A Holistic Approach to Closure Part A: Deadline To Initiate Closure, on August 28.

In doing so, the EPA established a revised date by which unlined surface impoundments must cease receiving waste and initiate closure. The EPA also finalized requirements for annual groundwater monitoring and corrective action. The rule is effective on September 28.

NGWA commented, as did other organizations, on several aspects of this rule including on the workplan for alternative capacity infeasibility, risk assessment plan, data transparency, data reporting, and statistical analysis.

Concerns expressed included:

  • Groundwater monitoring and modeling requirements not being used to delay consideration of alternate sites
  • Design standards for impoundments be protective of high-risk areas in floodplains and other locations
  • Plans to mitigate potential risks
  • Groundwater monitoring and modeling be used to demonstrate that groundwater standards are being met
  • Groundwater data should be summarized
  • Additional data should be collected for greater usefulness
  • Use of accredited laboratories.

The EPA indicated that it would draw on NGWA comments for plans of alternative capacity, that the risk assessment list was responsive to planning required, requiring a standardized reporting format may be inconsistent with state reporting requirements, no further data elements will be required at this time, and that use of accredited laboratories is beyond the scope of the current rule.

Among other requirements, the rule provides for:

  • Reporting contaminant detection if a statistically significant level exceeds a groundwater protection standard
  • Annual reporting of the current status of groundwater monitoring and corrective action programs
  • Certification that the CCR disposal in a CCR landfill must continue due to lack of alternative disposal capacity or close by April 19, 2021
  • Compliance with disposal requirements to meet certain requirements including groundwater-related items of —
    • Maps of groundwater monitoring well locations
    • Well construction diagrams and drilling logs for all monitoring wells
    • Maps that characterize the direction of groundwater flow
    • Constituent concentrations, summarized in table form, at each monitoring well
    • Description of site hydrogeology including stratigraphic cross-sections
    • Corrective measures assessment
    • Progress reports on corrective action remedy selection
    • Most recent structural stability assessment
    • Most recent safety factor assessment.

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