Muscatine Uses Coal Ash To De-Ice Roads - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Muscatine Uses Coal Ash To De-Ice Roads

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Salt continues to be a valuable asset to combat winter weather.
One area city turns to an unusual component to help conserve supplies.
For years, Muscatine has saved money on salt by mixing it with coal ash from the local power plant.
The utility gives the ash to the city free of charge.
The EPA says coal ash contains pollutants like Arsenic, Mercury, and Cadmium.
Those are toxic and some of those chemicals cause cancer.
Iowa allows it to be used on roads, but requires the ash to get tested periodically.
Muscatine Power and Water provided TV-6 a copy of a 2011 test report.
It showed the coal ash tested under the legal limits for all but one chemical, Beryllium.
Muscatine's street supervisor Randy Howell says the ash works well.
It collects sunlight, its cuts into the ice, and he says it doesn't block storm sewers like sand.
"It gets into the storm sewer, it's so light, the water goes through, it washes our pipes clean, the sand, it's heavy, just sits in the bottom of those pipes," says Howell.
The EPA says coal ash can be damaging to rivers.
It can smother out aquatic life and make the river bed unsuitable for creatures on the bottom.
However, coal ash is currently exempt from EPA waste rules.
The agency has new rules proposed and wants to finalize one by the end of the year.
Illinois also allows coal ash to be spread on roads.
A state spokesperson did not believe the ash needed to be approved by the state.
In Moline and East Moline, crews have used another solution to treat roads.     
Salt mixed with a sugar beet product.
Officials say it lowers operating costs by about 30 percent.