Frequent Questions about Definitions and Implementing the Final Rule Regulating the Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR)
EPA developed a list of responses to the many questions the Agency received about implementing the 2015 final CCR disposal rule. Questions that fall under the category of definitions and their responses are below:
- Does the rule apply to CCRs that are land applied outside a landfill or impoundment? If so, how does it apply?
If the land application does not meet the criteria for beneficial use defined in title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) section 257.53, the land application constitutes disposal and would be considered a landfill, subject to all of the requirements for CCR landfills. (See definition of CCR landfill in 40 CFR section 257.53).
- If a state has issued a construction permit for a CCR landfill prior to the effective date of the federal rule and this landfill has cells that are permitted for construction, but remain unconstructed after 180 days from the publication of the federal rule, are the unconstructed cells still considered to fall within the definition of "Existing CCR Landfill"?
No. CCR landfill cells constructed after the effective date of the rule are considered to be new CCR landfills subject to the requirements for new CCR landfills.
- Do the new CCR landfill requirements apply to yet-to-be constructed cells of an existing multi-cell CCR landfill that have already been approved by a State regulatory agency but have yet to be constructed? Will the new CCR landfill requirements apply to the next new cell to be constructed, even if those future cells were approved as part of an overall plan of operation with defined design criteria?
Yes. If continuous on-site, physical construction begins on a unit after the effective date of the rule, these are considered new CCR units (in this case, landfills) and will be subject to the requirements for new CCR units (here, those for new CCR landfills).
- The preamble of the CCR rule identifies certain impoundments as not being CCR surface impoundments – i.e., cooling water ponds, wastewater treatment ponds, storm water holding ponds, and aeration ponds. Are other types of ponds not specifically identified in the preamble but that similarly are not used to impound "significant quantities" of CCR considered not to be CCR surface impoundments?
The final rule defines CCR surface impoundments as units that are designed to hold an accumulation of CCR and liquids, and the unit treats, stores, or disposes of CCR. Units that are not designed to hold an accumulation of CCR, and that do not treat, store, or dispose of CCR are not CCR surface impoundments. EPA provided examples in the preamble to the final rule of units that, in EPA's experience, typically would be expected to fall outside of that definition. These examples were not intended to be exclusive or definitive. There may well be additional units that do not meet the definition of a CCR surface impoundment. Similarly, there may be instances in which a particular "wastewater treatment pond" is in fact functioning as a CCR unit (e.g., a facility uses an existing CCR disposal unit for wastewater treatment without dredging the CCR out of the impoundment). Ultimately, the critical determinant of whether a unit is subject to the rule is whether it meets the criteria in the regulatory definition, rather than whether it was included as an example in the final rule preamble.
- Are coal ash leachate ponds subject to this rule?
No. The rule regulates CCR landfills and CCR surface impoundments. CCR surface impoundments are defined as impoundments that are designed to hold an accumulation of CCR and liquids, and that treat, store, or dispose of CCR. A CCR leachate pond, or impoundment; i.e., an impoundment that only holds leachate from CCR landfills and not CCR, does not meet this definition.
- Are landfill stormwater run-off ponds outside the rule? We do not consider these to be CCR impoundments since they are not designed to hold an accumulation of CCR.
The rule only regulates CCR landfills and CCR surface impoundments. CCR surface impoundments are defined as impoundments which are designed to hold an accumulation of CCR and liquids, and the unit treats, stores, or disposes of CCR. "Stormwater run-off ponds" would not generally be expected to meet the definition of CCR surface impoundment because CCR landfills, if designed in accordance with the requirements of 40 CFR section 257.81, should not contribute CCR material in stormwater run-off to CCR landfill stormwater ponds. CCR landfills must be designed to prevent the erosion and excessive volume of run-off to CCR stormwater ponds. If designed in accordance with the requirements of the final rule and if the only inflow to the unit is in fact stormwater run-off or direct precipitation, stormwater run-off from CCR landfills retained or detained by a CCR landfill stormwater pond should not include any CCR material.
- Are the following units subject to the CCR surface impoundment requirements…ponds that receive leachate and surface runoff and leachate from dry fly ash landfills; coal pile runoff ponds; impoundments that receive small amounts of CCR but whose primary function is not storage or disposal of CCR; evaporation ponds; or stormwater impoundments impacted by some CCR as runoff?
To be covered by the CCR rule, an impoundment must meet both of the following criteria: (1) was designed to hold an accumulation of CCR and liquid, and (2) treats, stores, or disposes of CCR. Surface runoff, coal pile runoff, CCR landfill leachate, stormwater and evaporation ponds would not generally be expected to meet the definition of a CCR surface impoundment, because based on their typical design and function, such units are not usually designed primarily to hold an accumulation of CCR and liquid and would not be expected to treat, store, or dispose of CCR. However, it is the responsibility of the owner/operator to evaluate the impoundments at his facility to determine whether or not they meet the definition of a CCR surface impoundment.
Want to look at all of the 2015 final rule implementation questions at once? Check out the complete list in PDF format.