Mapping Power Stations and Coal Combustion Residuals in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Authors: Ben Oelke*, Frostburg State University / Western Maryland GIS Center, Morgan Alban, Frostburg State University / Western Maryland GIS Center, Michala Garrison, Frostburg State University / Western Maryland GIS Center
Topics: Land Use and Land Cover Change, Planning Geography, Physical Geography
Keywords: Coal, Waste products, Recycling
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

While fossil fuel coal has been a staple for centuries, the modern use of coal as a fuel source is becoming outdated. The industry is struggling to survive under the current economic conditions and advancements in science and technology have provided more efficient generation sources. While no longer the first option, we cannot simply ignore the history of coal. Coal has left behind a massive environmental footprint through mining and burning for centuries, which has produced harmful byproducts such as Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR’s), better known as fly and bottom ash. CCR’s are full of harmful heavy metals and can be devastating to ecosystems. These residuals are typically backfilled into excavation areas that have been mined to their fullest extent, or will be piled up nearby the original mining or burning site. The Western Maryland Regional GIS Center has been investigating CCR piles as well as decommissioned and active coal power stations within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. These investigations have led to the mapping and creation of a database for future reference and research. Looking at the distribution, many of the dump sites are extremely close to our state’s waterways and urban areas; Cumberland, and the Chesapeake Bay being a few examples, which could be directly affected. Healthier remedies for cleanup of these decommissioned plants are frequently explored, as cement companies are able to recycle these CCR’s piles, by making their products. This complied information can be used to help clean the Chesapeake Bay watershed without significant financial strain.

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