The federal government is encouraging farmers to spread coal ash on their fields to loosen and fertilize soil even as it considers regulating coal wastes for the first time. The material is produced by power plant “scrubbers” that remove acid rain causing sulfur dioxide from plant emissions. A synthetic form of the mineral gypsum, it also contains mercury, arsenic, lead and other heavy metals. Therefore, some people believe that it may not be the best idea. “Basically this is a leap into the unknown,” said Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. “This stuff has materials in it that we’re trying to prevent entering the environment from coal-fired power plants and then to turn around and smear it across ag lands raises some real questions.”
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