Coal contains trace amounts of a wide range of elements including toxic metals andmetalloids. These elements are not destroyed during the combustion of coal, but arereleased in various wastestreams, which include fly ash, bottom ash, wastes from gasscrubber units and gaseous emissions to the atmosphere.This study was carried out to determine the content of a range of elements in fly ashes produced by two coal fired power plants located in Thailand;
Mae Moh coal fired power plant, Lampang.
Thai Petrochemical Industry (TPI) coal fired power plant, Rayong.Greenpeace visited the facilities in April and May 2002 and collected samples of fly ash.The analysis of these samples demonstrated that all samples were contaminated with a rangeof toxic and potentially toxic elements including arsenic, chromium, lead and mercury.Of the three fly ash samples, that from the Mae Moh plant contained the highestconcentrations of many of the most toxic elements, including arsenic, lead and mercury.The two samples from the TPI plant contained higher concentrations of other elementsincluding chromium, cobalt, nickel and zinc.Estimates of the total annual quantities of each element contained in the fly ashes produced by the Mae Moh and TPI plants have been calculated from the annual quantities of fly ash produced and the elemental composition of the fly ash samples collected from each plant.The larger Mae Moh plant is estimated to produce ashes containing many hundreds of tonnes of toxic elements annually. The considerably smaller TPI facility is estimated tohave production quantities of many tonnes annually, as detailed in Table 5.The fly ash sample from the Mae Moh plant contained arsenic and mercury atconcentrations above concentrations typically found in uncontaminated soils by three andfourteen times respectively. The fly ash samples from the TPI plant contained mercury atapproximately twice the background soil concentration. The concentrations of theadditional elements detected in the fly ash samples are not significantly higher than typicaluncontaminated soil concentrations.The presence of toxic and potentially toxic elements in the fly ash samples at less elevatedconcentrations than those of arsenic and mercury does contribute further to the potentialenvironmental hazards from the ashes as a result of the very large quantities of ashes produced, and the tendency for a significant fraction of these elements to leach from theashes into the immediate environment.In addition to their toxic element content, fly ashes produced by these facilities pose a threatdue to the very fine particles contained within them. These particles are small enough to beinhaled into the extremities of the lung airways, and as a result can lead to adverse humanhealth effects. Pollution control devices are significantly less efficient at capturing suchsmall ‘respirable’ particles, which can contain higher concentrations of toxic elements thanthe bulk fly ash.