Are Coal Ashes Ok to Spread on Lawn or in Vegetable Garden?

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freetown fred
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Post Fri. Jan. 31, 2014 10:25 am

Best do something with those fish tank filters also PLUS--the ones I've had, also had fiber glass in them :shock:
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Post Fri. Jan. 31, 2014 1:50 pm

Pacowy wrote: If you still think PA anthracite is basically harmful rather than benign, you probably should make sure you don't drink any tap water, because anthracite is widely used as a filtration medium in municipal drinking water supplies. I had a neighbor who used to run his mouth about all of the supposed contamination caused by coal, but when he figured out that he was drinking fresh water from it that passes stringent testing requirements, I think it started to dawn on him that common perceptions sometimes deviate far from the evidence.
Anthracite is used for mechanical water filtration. It is a very stable "rock", which is not water soluble. That means any trapped metals or chemicals remain trapped.

Coal ash is not the same thing, nor is it used in filtration plants. The high temperatures burn off the material that binds the "rock" allowing non combustible material to be released.

Coal and coal ash are two very different things.

gerry
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Post Fri. Jan. 31, 2014 2:22 pm

freetown fred wrote:Best do something with those fish tank filters also PLUS--the ones I've had, also had fiber glass in them :shock:
Best to at least check a little before typing such.

That isn't coal in fish tank filters, it is activated carbon usually carefully made from selected charcoal (coconut shells are a common base). It can be made from other carbon sources but the purity of the carbon is tested to a high standard. Actually, anthracite is useless for chemical filtration since it is insoluble in water, won't absorb chemical contaminants. It is not "activated carbon"

If it was coal ash it wouldn't be black and would release chemicals in water, not absorb them.

Not that it matters, you didn't see fiber glass (at least in the last 5 decades), you saw plastic filaments made for such use. Neither are water soluble anyway so they aren't going to release anything into the water.

This thread has some over the top concerns and a pile of incorrect "information"

I'm middle of the road, I use coal ash on my driveway and have used it as fill in a few places. I don't have to worry about contaminants (if any, I have gotten coal from different mines) getting to my drinking water over decades due to local geologic conditions as some locations have to address. I won't use it in my food garden but have used it in other areas for acid loving shrubs.

I LOVE my PA anthracite, just use some care what I do with the remnants after I destroy it with a nice warm feeling.
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Post Fri. Jan. 31, 2014 2:46 pm

Pacowy wrote:
ShawninNY wrote:There's not 1 study that cites ash not having metals , it seems reasonable to not put them in your vege garden,
And there's not 1 study that says plain dirt doesn't have metals. Does that mean you shouldn't have dirt in the garden either?

Mike
I beg to differ, local studies in NH have found a number of old orchard land badly contaminated due to ancient pesticides once used. Sorry I can't find a link, it was in my son's local paper. Studies are what caused us to use unleaded gas. Tanks leaking and contaminating soil, eventually leaching into aquifers.

There are thousands of soil tests done every year to analyze commercial and individual's soil, they are very lost cost and very complete. Many but not all come back with a "safe to use to grow food" along with what deficiencies may exist.

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Post Fri. Jan. 31, 2014 3:02 pm

Pacowy wrote:IIRC correctly the quote about coal for domestic purposes was drawn from a situation (in China, I think) where local coals high in arsenic were burned indoors without venting of combustion byproducts. It's pretty misleading to cite that as if it applies to people burning PA anthracite in proper appliances with proper venting
If you read the previously posted http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/coal-ash-in-soil/

you would have noticed domestic arsenic pollution disasters from coal waste.
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Post Fri. Jan. 31, 2014 3:12 pm

By "plain dirt" I was referring to uncontaminated soil. You're kind of making my point that we have been able to discern the things that cause actual heavy metal contaminations, and PA anthracite is not one of them.

Your imagery of the coal being a "rock" that holds in the contaminants until after it is burned is convenient, but irrelevant. Anthracite used in water filtration typically is sized at 1 mm or less, so it has a huge amount of surface area from which to release potential contaminants it may harbor. What the evidence says is that neither the anthracite nor the ash possesses those contaminants to any significant degree.

After claiming that lower-than-background concentrations of contaminants are hazardous, it is not surprising that the author of the SA article finds any release of anything containing any concentration of a contaminant to be a disaster. In any event, it's pretty hard to see how those "disasters" bear any relation to the spreading of residential quantities of PA anthracite ash on a lawn or garden.

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Post Fri. Jan. 31, 2014 3:18 pm

gerry_g wrote: Actually, anthracite is useless for chemical filtration since it is insoluble in water, won't absorb chemical contaminants. It is not "activated carbon"

This thread has some over the top concerns and a pile of incorrect "information"
I beg to differ with you. When I was a wastewater engineer I paid $80 for a 40# bag of "activated carbon", it was clearly marked as pulverized anthracite. The activation comes from a controlled heating process. Once activated, a pound has the filtration area of about six football fields.
IIRC, water filtration is the second largest use of anthracite production after residential heating.
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Post Fri. Jan. 31, 2014 3:29 pm

What is coal ash?
Isn't it just dirt and dust, pretty much?


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Post Fri. Jan. 31, 2014 3:36 pm

There is no doubt that anthracite coal contains heavy metals and some radioactive material. The problem with the ash is, these impurities become concentrated in the ash. A little ash probably won't hurt you but I wouldn't want to roll around in it and breath large quantities of it every day. I don't have a problem dumping it in the yard but I wouldn't add any specifically to a vegetable garden. No good reason to and perhaps reason not to.
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Post Fri. Jan. 31, 2014 3:43 pm

I would not add it to my garden but did have a thriving blackberry bush growing out of my ash pile one year. :)
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Post Fri. Jan. 31, 2014 3:56 pm

Yes, Lightning, dirt, dust and silica/sand types of stuff. It doesn't differ much from background contaminant levels because it started out as vegetation remains piled on soil at a time when the dinosaurs weren't using leaded gasoline or paint, or pesticides, or doing much smelting. Obviously there may be issues with contaminants at specific locations, but basically it's "all natural". So it would be a surprise if it were much different from soil in terms of the presence of contaminants.

Carbon12 there is no doubt that almost everything contains trace amounts of heavy metals. Do you have any information that says any potentially harmful substance is present in PA anthracite ash above the background level or any credible harm threshold?

Mike
Last edited by Pacowy on Fri. Jan. 31, 2014 4:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post Fri. Jan. 31, 2014 4:04 pm

coaledsweat wrote:
gerry_g wrote: Actually, anthracite is useless for chemical filtration since it is insoluble in water, won't absorb chemical contaminants. It is not "activated carbon"

This thread has some over the top concerns and a pile of incorrect "information"
I beg to differ with you. When I was a wastewater engineer I paid $80 for a 40# bag of "activated carbon", it was clearly marked as pulverized anthracite. The activation comes from a controlled heating process. Once activated, a pound has the filtration area of about six football fields.
IIRC, water filtration is the second largest use of anthracite production after residential heating.
I did mention there were different sources of activated carbon. Activated carbon is no longer anthracite, what you reference is heat treated and chemical quality tested based derived from anthracite.

Quality checks make a big difference IMHO.
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Post Fri. Jan. 31, 2014 4:19 pm

No matter where you go,......there you are.

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Post Fri. Jan. 31, 2014 4:30 pm

Pacowy wrote:
Your imagery of the coal being a "rock" that holds in the contaminants until after it is burned is convenient, but irrelevant. Anthracite used in water filtration typically is sized at 1 mm or less, so it has a huge amount of surface area from which to release potential contaminants it may harbor. What the evidence says is that neither the anthracite nor the ash possesses those contaminants to any significant degree.
I bet the specific coal used for water filtration is carefully tested.

I never claimed all anthracite is contaminated, but just my experience with different PA brands clearly indicates not all burn the same way, even though the same correct size. Thus the are not all the same! One brand (unmentioned intentionally) shipped a lot that had stuff other than clean coal in it. What was it? I'll never know. It just filled the ash pan faster. Different ash content or volume means different impurities.

Consumers don't get guaranteed (via test) mechanical water filtration grade coal. An even 1mm size, if chemically washed won't leach much of it's inner content. The organics make a pretty good water seal at any rational filtration temperatures.

Once you burn it, all those water seal organics are gone. Consumers have no warranty what the ash contains. There certainly is plenty of mineral content, what minerals from what load and mine?

Not knowing what is actually in a particular load makes me careful of how I use ash. But I do use it.
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Post Fri. Jan. 31, 2014 4:32 pm

I'm glad I'm warm by my stove, and not trying to ride any of these brainwaves to shore! The original poster didn't mention anthracite , in fact they have been active in bituminous threads, the evidence is in on bit ash ! It has elevated levels of heavy metals and radioactive particles ! The word Elevated means higher than , what's naturally occurring


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