Sweetened Sour

June 8, 2010

It was a dark, evil night in 1978, and Darth Vader was running with his cape between his legs.

It was a dark, evil night in 1978, and Darth Vader was running with his cape between his legs.

Hey, you would too if someone scared the sugar high out of you on Halloween. I was 8 and already out on my own, scavenging the local trick-or-treat route. I had the hippest costume from the latest box-office smash, and the goodie bag was becoming a serious diabetic hazard. Then came the mysterious house halfway up Clyde Drive, the one that was playing trick AND treat. The porch light was on, so I assumed they were operating accordingly. After a couple of knocks, the door whipped open and out jumped a man with a humming chain saw. All the adrenaline quickly soaked the muscles in my legs, and before I could care about candy casualties as I pumped my arms—with goodie bag attached—for more speed, I was already across the street peering at this house of horror. The door creeked back open, and a woman dressed as a witch emerged. What was next, a wicked spell?

“Come on back,” she said in a shrieky voice. “It’s OK. We won’t scare you again. We have some nice, big candy bars for you.”

I was hesitant, but that leftover adrenaline was now slowly kicking in and convincing my feet to return to the scene. Plus, more kids had arrived, and with the thought of a mass kidnapping being nearly impossible, I cautiously made my way back to this chainsaw comedy hour.

True to their word, they gave me a huge Marathon bar (12 in. of braided caramel and chocolate), but I still had my suspicions it was laced with something other than manufactured fructose.

Sugar-coated action
A few weeks ago, the Environmental Protection Agency was standing at the door with an enticing bit of information when it announced its intent to propose the first-ever national rules relating to the disposal and management of coal ash from coal-powered plants. The treat here is the EPA, at least initially, is leaving in place the Bevill exemption for beneficial uses of coal ash in which coal combustion residuals are recycled as components of products.

I know the state of Texas is stuffing its face when it comes to using fly ash to help combat a debilitating disease in its bridges known as alkali-silica reactivity. Officials there have found that using fly ash in the mix takes more of the sting out of reactive aggregates. When I talked to TxDOT’s director of rigid pavement and concrete materials, Lisa Lukefahr, in December 2009, she said they were using as much as 25% of Class F fly ash in mixes. The worry then was the EPA would label the admixture as a hazardous waste, and Texas really did not have a backup plan.

Thankfully, the agency has decided to dress up this action as a prince instead of a pig. The EPA intends to propose two potential regulatory paths it could follow under the Resource Recovery and Conservation Act. One option is to regulate under Subtitle C, which creates a comprehensive program of federally enforceable requirements for waste management and disposal. The other option, under Subtitle D, gives EPA authority to set performance standards for waste management facilities and will be enforced primarily through citizen suits. The EPA indicated that “encapsulated uses,” which include fly ash for road and bridge construction, will not be affected.

Still, I can’t help but think we are staring down someone wearing a killer-like hockey mask. Is the EPA really going to do something that will be beneficial to the highway industry, or will it turn and stab us in the back? Time will only tell, but you may want to keep that light saber within reaching distance.

About The Author: Bill Wilson is Editorial Director. He can be reached at [email protected] or 847/391-1029.

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