February 21, 2021 — 07:17am GMT+0000

Coal ash- the biggest waste problem in Australia

Pramodya Editor

Country’s development can be expressed via different aspects; where power generation plays a pivotal role in that. Australia being a leading member in the Global Power Community performs power generation using fossil fuel; specially coal. But unfortunately, at present coal power generation has created devastating effects on the environment; specially to hydrosphere globally. At the same time, because coal ash has accounted for 18 % of Australia’s total waste production, this has become an enormous problem here.

Both coal mining, as well as burning, creates harmful effects on nearby water sources. Acid mine drainage is the process known where certain substances that comes out from the coal mines when get oxidized after exposing to air mixes into the water through surface runoff. This changes the pH level of water creating harmful effects for sensitive fish and bird communities.  Although coal ash is more frequently connected with billowing and smokestacks than it is in water, it can directly influence local water supplies by mixing into the water when an emergency dam overflows in heavy rain or through leakages into the soil. Sludge is created when coal ash gets mixed with water.

All coal power generation plants rely upon water sources nearby, because water is essential for the functioning of the plant; as heated water steam is used for turbines and for electricity generation. The discharging wastewater is high in temperature, when released back to the environment, it also creates thermal pollution.

One of the biggest coal ash dumps located in the southern end of Lake Macquarie in NSW store 60 million tons of coal ash. And also, the tests conducted for water and sediment quality around the vales point has revealed that the levels of Zn (Zink), Ni (Nickle), Cu (Copper), Al (Aluminums), Fe (Iron), Mn(Manganese), Cd (Cadmium), and Pb (Lead) in most of the tested samples were above the healthy environment guidelines given by Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council. Due to the heavy metal accumulation in lakes and other water ways, the aquatic fauna also gets severely affected; fish mortality rate has gone up and the reproduction rate has gone down. Heavy metals get accumulate in fish muscles; thus, people who consume those fish also become victims. And consuming poorly treated water also severely affects human health.

As a remedy to prevent leaching contaminated water to groundwater, most of the coal power generating counties have started lining ash dams with an impervious membrane so that it will minimize leaking. But in Australia this method is not widely practicing. In order to reduce this massive environmental pollution caused by coal ash, there should be more timely approaches to be taken; rather than complaining about pollution and laying plasters to this wound a proper medication should be given. Although waste production cannot be limited along with the development of this country; through proper waste management, the damage created to the environment can be minimized. There are many problems and solutions to learn us.