New technology met with fear

Published 11:20 am Monday, April 17, 2017

To the Editor:

VistaGreen High Bridge Park is not a toxic waste dump. It is a coal combustion residual storage and recycling area.

Coal ash is not hazardous waste. Per the Obama administration’s EPA, arguably the most environmentally friendly administration to date, coal ash was officially deemed a non-hazardous material (1). Coal ash disposal is to be regulated as a non-hazardous waste under the federal statute RCRA subtitle D much like municipal solid waste is regulated (2). Coal ash contains many of the same naturally occurring elements that can be found in soil. Some coal ash trace elements of concern such as Arsenic can also be found in apple juice at 8 ppb (3).

Many common foods and beverages we encounter every day such as flours, chicken and juices also contain trace concentrations of the same elements. Some of the trace elements in coal ash are considered potentially toxic in large concentrations yet they are all around us in trace concentrations occurring naturally in our society and environment.

“Coal ash sites leak” according to Wanda Flythe; however, she is referring to coal ash basins that are unlined and unregulated and in no way the same as what VistaGreen is proposing. Unlined and unregulated ash basins are not valid comparisons to the VistaGreen project.

The roll back fabric covers utilized by trucks hauling loose material, referred to by Wanda Flythe, are in no way as effective at containing coal ash as the hard plastic rail car cover tops with industrial strength locking mechanisms to be implemented by VistaGreen. To see pictures of this hard top and locked rail car cover technology visit the VistaGreen photo gallery page on the VistaGreen website

The negative health risks attributed to any material or substance can be attributed to concentration or dose encountered by a subject. This risk is a function of the technology storing, regulating and managing the coal ash. VistaGreen is proposing a solution to these failing basins by implementing viable and tested technology and monitoring programs to safely store the ash currently polluting the environment from the unlined basins. How can the opposition compare the VistaGreen project to the failing unlined basins, when it is in no way the same thing?

VistaGreen will pay the salary of a landfill compliance inspector to be employed by Northampton County. This inspector will ensure the compliance of VistaGreen with all state and local permits in place associated with High Bridge Park operation.

The opposition counts on public fear and the misunderstanding of the difference between lined and unlined landfills to push their own agenda regarding coal ash. Instead they denounce solutions like the VistaGreen project which is an environmental solution to the failing unlined pits that plague our southeastern rivers. If we reject projects such as VistaGreen then the coal ash will remain in the unlined and leaking basins to further contaminate human and environmental health while the utility skates by without having to dig up the mess they left us with.

VistaGreen advocates the safe storage and recycling of coal ash that currently sits in unlined basins. This legacy coal ash needs to be cleaned up and stored in facilities like the one VistaGreen is proposing. If we rejected every new technology that has an associated risk or that is perceived as dangerous where would our society be today? Would we have airplanes, pesticides, fossil fuel or any other technology that modern society relies on? To simply denounce technology because it is publicly perceived as dangerous and not fully understood by the general population would leave our society in stagnation. Technological innovation drives the modern way of life and quality of life. Why reject it now?

Sources cited:

  1. (
  2. (
  3. (Duke Energy Coal Ash Fact Sheet)

Clarence Wood Beasley IV

VistaGreen Officer