Sulphur Build up in Old Coal Bin

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RHamper
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Post Wed. Nov. 21, 2012 2:15 pm

Hello. I am in the process of demolishing an old basement coal bin. I estimate that it had been in use for 40-50 years but had not seen any new coal in the last 30. There is a very noticeable buildup on the concrete wall of what I assume to be sulphur. (Local coal has a fairly high sulphur content). It is yellow, powdery in nature and is up to 1/4" thick in places. I want to clean the wall, but was concerned with any hazards that may be associated with removing it. Any information or advice would be greatly appreciated.

Rob

mattcoalburner
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Post Wed. Nov. 21, 2012 2:24 pm

PRIMARY HAZARD:
Sulfur dust suspended in air ignites easily, and can cause an explosion in confined areas. May be ignited by friction, static electricity, heat, sparks, or flames. Toxic gases will form upon combustion. Bulk/solid forms burn only at moderate rate, whereas dust burns with explosive violence.

SECTION 6 PRECAUTIONS FOR SAFE HANDLING AND USE

EXPLOSION HAZARD:
Avoid any conditions that might tend to create a dust explosion. Be careful not to create dust. Maintain good housekeeping practices to minimize dust build-up and dispersion. Eliminate sources of ignition. Keep away from heat, sparks and flames. Use nonferrous tools to reduce sparking. Sweep or shovel up spilled material using a natural fiber broom and/or aluminum shovel to prevent sparking. Maintain adequate ventilation in all areas.

SMALL or LARGE SPILLS:
No flares or flames in area. No smoking. Danger of dust explosion near sparks. Sweep or shovel up spilled material using a natural fiber broom and/or aluminum shovel to prevent sparking. Place sweepings in an appropriate chemical waste container for reclaiming or disposal in an approved facility. Wash spill site after clean up is complete. Wear protective clothing during clean up: safety glasses, rubber gloves, impervious clothing, dust mask or respirator.

SECTION 7 PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT

WORK AREA:
Protective equipment should be used during the following procedures:
- Manufacture or formulation of this product.
- Repair and maintenance of contaminated equipment.
- Clean up of leaks and spills.
- Any situation which may result in hazardous exposure.
Maintain adequate ventilation and wear a respirator or a dust mask to prevent inhalation. Wear suitable, protective clothing and safety glasses to prevent skin and eye irritation from dust. Maintain a sink, safety shower and eyewash fountain in the work area. Wash skin thoroughly after handling and before eating or smoking. Wash contaminated clothing separately before reuse.

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RHamper
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Post Wed. Nov. 21, 2012 2:48 pm

Well, I guess the buffing wheel is out....

I was going to wet it down prior to brushing but was concerned with acid formation. I will use a stiff bristled nylon brush to knock it down. Nice tip on the aluminium shovel, that's what I've been using but coincendentally.

Is sulphur build-up like that normal in a coal bin? I suspect dampness from the concrete leached the sulphur out of the coal.

Thanks for the info so far.

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freetown fred
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Post Wed. Nov. 21, 2012 2:56 pm

RH, I've seen what you describe on OLD stone/ concrete foundation with no old coal bin area present.. The method you seem to have chosen will work just fine. I wouldn't want to be breathing the stuff/dust for a few hrs but I would not worry about any TOXIC ramifications to your health. Remember, most concretes have a bit of fly ash in it anyway. I would wear a simple mask & safety glasses as I would in any situation of possible dust--I wear one when I'm putting up hay in the barn--yeah, wettin it would just make a big mess--have fun dude. :)
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steamup
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Post Wed. Nov. 21, 2012 3:22 pm

I think you are describing efflorescence.

Does it look like the picture in this link?

http://www.nachi.org/efflorescence.htm
Steamup

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mattcoalburner
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Post Wed. Nov. 21, 2012 3:29 pm

Ive never heard of sulpur build up on a coal bin wall, maybe?? OR maybe mold as steamup suggested? But I guess it is better to ba safe then sorry!

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Lightning
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Post Wed. Nov. 21, 2012 5:56 pm

Coal doesn't have very much sulfur in it.. I don't think you could acquire a layer of sulfur thru storing coal. I've never seen any mention of it anywhere. :idea:

RHamper
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Post Thu. Nov. 22, 2012 9:53 am

"I think you are describing efflorescence."

Possibly. I have efflorescence in other areas of the basement, but this is yellow (it's whitish everywhere else) and reminds me of the stacks of sulphur I see at refineries. Also, this foundation is very old, I can't say for sure, but I know the house is 108 years old and has been a coal burner until the early 70's. The concrete is typical of the age: the aggregate is not of consistent size and I believe it contains some ferrous rock as there is some obvious iron oxidation amongst the efflorescence. I'll see if I can take a picture. Perhaps the sulphur stained the effloresence? Cape Breton coal does have a high sulphur content, but certainly within the normal bounds for coal.

"but I would not worry about any TOXIC ramifications to your health."
Ok thanks, it was my biggest concern. I've been using a respirator anyway for the demolition, so that's not a worry. Guess I'll just erect a barrier and brush it down as best I can.

Thanks people for all the input.

By the way, just out of curiosity, would a well made coal bin be completely wooden? Also, while I've never heard of it in houses I've seen spontaneous combustion in big coal piles outside. Does it ever occur within houses and how would you deal with it? Lots of people in this neighborhood still use coal, I find it an interesting subject so thanks for indulging me.


RHamper
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Post Thu. Nov. 22, 2012 10:27 am

Some pictures. I don't know if they will link properly. First time using tinypic. Note in last pic the efflorsessence is white, and not really raised off the wall. In other areas around the basement, it is merely a fuzz at most.

http://i49.tinypic.com/30vlqgp.jpg
http://i46.tinypic.com/jpxy5e.jpg
http://i45.tinypic.com/25f2dlh.jpg

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Short Bus
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Post Thu. Nov. 22, 2012 4:25 pm

You might try this to learn more what is happening in your house, we did it alot when complaints came about concrete we sold. low cost and effective.

Somthing like this http://www.pecora.com/pdfs/Tech_Bulletin_71_Rubbe ... a_Deck.pdf

or this from:
**Broken Link(s) Removed**
The Rubber Sheet/Plastic Mat Test
This is the most commonly used test. However, its margin of error is very great. For this test, you place a 36" x 36" mat on a clean concrete surface, secure the perimeter with duct tape and leave in place for a minimum of 48 hours. After removing the mat, inspect the concrete's surface for darkening, any signs of moisture droplets, surface drying (whitening) and how well the duct tape stuck to the concrete. Some feel this test can be done overnight or in 24 hours. It has been my experience that nothing starts to happen for 48 hours.

This tells you if water is moving in your concrete, and if so any number of things travel with water, or possibly come out of the coal with water.
If it was as easy as burning oil, everybody would be burning coal.
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Dennis
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Post Fri. Nov. 23, 2012 7:29 pm

I have seen this yellow fuzzy type of stuff your talking about.It's not efflorescence but a type of mold of fungus.

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Berlin
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Post Sat. Nov. 24, 2012 12:52 am

Coal requires all the right things to spontaneously combust. The most important requirement, and the one that really negates wasting time on any of the others, is the size of the coal pile. The tonnages used for home heating are not in any danger of spontaneously combusting. Now, if you want to stockpile 10,000 tons to make absolutely sure you'll never be cold, well, then you might to take some steps to manage that risk based on the storage conditions, particular qualities and predominant size of that coal ... ;) .
Burning western Pennsylvania Bituminous in WNY using model 77 stoker furnace. BITUMINOUS equiptment: 2 hand fired stoves of my own design, Many Combustioneer Model 77 stokers, stokermatic furnace, Many Will-Burt stokers, & and Two Iron firemen.

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