Oklahoma Sees Improvement in Coal Ash Pits

The focus in recent days by some environmentalists has been concern over reported contamination of coal ash pits located at power plants around the country.

But in Oklahoma, there has been progress made regarding coal combustion by-products according to the Oklahoma Department of Mines. The sites are not those at coal-fired power plants but rather those issued mining permits by the Minerals Division of the Department.

Rhonda Dossett, Co-Program Director said the number off such licensed pits has gone from 9 in 2010 to two.

“They were either active coal mining or abandoned pits,” she explained. But most have been “reclaimed and released” and some were transferred to the control of the Department of Environmental Quality.

The largest existing operation is at Bokshe where the fly ash is the byproduct from the Shady Point power plant operated by AEF PSO. The plant is 7 miles from the power plant and trucks haul the fly ash to  an unlined mining operation. Technically, its name is MMHF #LE1857.

Dossett said the site is 333 acres in size and 160 of it is disturbed while 129 acres are “bonded” and approved for removal.

The second site under the control of the Department of Minies is in Leflore County. The 34 acre site is technically named GCI LE1515.

“About half of it has been reclaimed,” said Dossett.

She said the decline in the coal combustion by-product operations is “a reflection of declining coal mining in the state.”

In 2010, the 9 sites for the storage of the coal ash totaled 1,256 acres for fly ash and 60 acres for CKD or cement kiln dust.

The Department of Mines monitors the sites with reclamation in mind.

“When a sufficient amount of CCB has been placed on site, a predetermined amount of cover material and topsoil is laid down. Once sufficient vegetation is established, the site is released,” according to the Department of Mines website.