Slippery Slope Of Using Coal Combustion Bottom Ash As A Traction Agent

Slippery Slope Of Using Coal Combustion Bottom Ash As A Traction Agent

Concerned Residents of Portland (New York) and People Like Us (CROP PLUS) are already thinking about winter even though there is still plenty of warm weather left this season. They want to make sure that substances used as traction agents on roads to help our cars from slipping and sliding are safe for waterways and public health. Coal combustion bottom ash is being used on their community’s roads as a traction agent and for trailmaking. The ash contains polluting heavy metals that pose a threat to human health and our waters. CROP PLUS is a community based group dedicated to making sure proper guidelines are developed to protect human health and nearby waters from dangerous pollutants.

Recently released data compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) points to a very high risk of cancer for an alarming one out of every 50 Americans who live near ash and sludge dumps, demonstrating the dangers of human interaction with the material. Additionally, dangers to wildlife and ecosystems from these same containments are off the charts. Dumping this ash on roads can’t be good either. Currently, ash is being used throughout the state of New York and in 13 other states. Relying on a small group of dedicated volunteers, CROP PLUS recently turned to Freshwater Future for assistance with strategy. “I felt like we hit a brick wall with our efforts to protect the community from hazards related to spreading this ash on our roads and trails,” states Diane Hofner, President of CROP PLUS. “But after working with Freshwater Future for just a short time, we are building a solid plan on how to move forward that we are starting to successfully implement. It was like a dream come true.” This assistance was critical to helping CROP PLUS prioritize its top two strategic areas. CROP PLUS is advocating for the Environmental Protection Agency and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to develop much needed guidelines that protect community members and nearby waters from pollution related to the runoff, ingestion via crops grown in the ash and the dust we breathe in. Most concerning are 16 different heavy metals that have been recognized by the EPA as being risks to human health and environmental safety. Freshwater Future has helped them identify key decision makers, build their team, figure out how to get the technical information they need, and develop the right message. To learn more and find out what you can do to help, contact them at



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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.