Fly ash recycling

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UNDERWOOD, N.D. - According to the American Coal Ash Association, in 2014 more than half of the fly ash produced by coal power plants nationwide was disposed of, much of it in landfills. The Coal Creek Station in North Dakota is one of those that has a better way.

North Dakota's interstates, many of its roads, and even the Heritage Center are all built with ash that comes from the Coal Creek Station.

"The new twins stadium, the new gopher's stadium. The I-35 bridge that collapsed years ago, when they rebuilt that the ash was used in it," said Al Christianson, director of business development for Great River Energy.

The fly ash is used in place of Portland Cement as a binding agent in concrete. Coal Creek says that it ia a greener option than making Portland Cement.

"So over a year when we sell five hundred thousand tons, there's 400,000 tons less CO2 going into the air because fly ash is being used instead of Portland Cement," said Christianson.

Fly ash is made when coal is burned, it is the lighter particles that rise up with the smoke.

The Dakota Resource Council has some concern with using potentially harmful byproducts.

"I don't know how much radioactivity is coming off of that concrete when it's in there, and I don't know if it's ever been studied, but it's my understanding that the fly ash has a certain level of radioactivity to it," said Gene Wirtz, a farmer with the DRC.

According to Coal Creek, the concrete made from fly ash also saves tax payers money. It makes roads tougher and last longer so they don't need to be replaced as often.

Christianson states that to match the weight of the nearly 500,000 tons of fly ash that is recycled every year due to this program, you would need to recycle about 24.5 billion aluminum cans .