Coal Ash

Due to the slides involving coal ash storage and the occasional leachate from basins to groundwater, there has been increasing interest in this substance. Although it has historically been considered a relatively non-toxic material, there has been concern about the hazards posed by fly ash in fugitive dusts and the metals in the leachate (both to groundwater and surface waters).

We have conducted several risk assessments involving occupational exposure to these dusts during remediation, as well as, assessments of ash basins. We have served as experts in some of the litigation.

Key Projects

  • State of the Art Evaluation Regarding Wet Ash Basins. We were retained by an insurance carrier to evaluate when the scientific community began to be concerned about metals leaching from fly ash basins into groundwater. At the time, in 2020, there was a belief that there were as many as 1,000 basins still active in the United States.
  • Conducted Risk Assessment of Radionuclide Risk of Using Coal Ash in Building Materials. At various times, there has been a concern about naturally occurring radionuclides posing a hazard to inhabitants of buildings which used coal ash or fly ash as a constituent in bricks, concretes and mortars. We conducted an evaluation to assess that risk under many different scenarios.   
  • Occupational exposure to fly ash. A client who was responsible for cleaning up the fly ash following the great landslide in Tennessee (power plant) was sued regarding allegations of an inadequate industrial hygiene program. We evaluated thousands of pieces of IH data and wrote up an analyses (2017).
  • Risks of boiler fly ash to local streams. We were asked by a major utility company to assess their liabilities under the 2015 EPA coal ash disposal regulations. They had concerns about the amount of ash that had entered streams due to historical piling on or near their site. 
  • MCHM (4-methylcyclohexanemethanon) release into the Elk River. Was retained by a client to assess the possible health risks associated with ingestion of this chemical, which is used in processing coal dust. 
  • Alleged Mesothelioma Risks Associated with Gaskets on Coal Fly Ash Handling Systems. We were retained to give opinions about the magnitude of exposure from alleged asbestos-containing gaskets in coal fly ash systems and the likelihood of workers developing an asbestos-related disease. 


  • Paustenbach, D.J., Winans, B., Novick, R.M. and Green, S.M., 2015. The toxicity of crude 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol (MCHM): review of experimental data and results of predictive models for its constituents and a putative metabolite. Critical Reviews in Toxicology, 45, pp. 1-55.