People like to talk trash at our company. Like how can we reduce waste? And is this thing recyclable? We’re not interested in a legacy of landfills. Sustainable companies think differently. They question and challenge. So, after looking at our historical landfill avoidance numbers and more than 30 types of waste streams, we’ve rallied the workforce a few years ago and set a goal to reduce our trash by 1 million cubic yards by 2019. That’s the equivalent of five football fields stacked from goal to goal, 100 feet deep. We are pleased to say that we reached our goal of 1 million cubic yards of landfill space avoided this year - two years ahead of schedule.
The goal was set using a 2013 baseline of 668,814 cubic yards. We’ve avoided more than 1,025,000 cubic yards of landfill waste since 1992. Employee groups, affectionately called Green Teams, are driving the effort across the state. Green Teams focus on everyday opportunities to reduce, reuse and recycle, and promote events like Earth Day.
We belong to a number of industry groups that help fuel and hone ideas to reduce waste and conserve. Our involvement with the Electric Power Research Institute Energy Sustainability Interest Group provides valuable benchmarking and quality data. Leadership from some 42 utility companies participates, working to establish industry standards. The Michigan Recycling Coalition, which champions effective resource use and recovery, is another key organization for us.
Fly ash and bottom ash are produced when coal is used to make electricity. It’s a type of waste referred to in the industry as coal combustion residuals, or CCRs. We are responsible for the safe collection and disposal of CCRs. CCRs are collected and placed in a disposal facility that is licensed and inspected by the Michigan
Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).
Disposal facilities have an engineering plan, groundwater monitoring program, closure plan, and financial assurance that has been reviewed and approved by the MDEQ. Plant staff conduct daily inspections of the disposal facility and third-party professional engineers inspect all facilities for safety and stability annually. Additionally, MDEQ makes quarterly visits to conduct compliance inspections.
The fly ash handling systems at each of the five coal-generating facilities were converted to dry systems by 2009, greatly reducing wastewater, which contributes to greater protection of the environment. We are committed to handling fly and bottom ash safely and recycling for use in concrete and other materials instead of landfilling when possible.
Upon closure of CCR disposal facilities, Consumers Energy will receive certification from the MDEQ that the facility has completed the necessary requirements from the approved closure plans. A 30-year post-closure care period will then be initiated, including inspecting the final cover, maintaining the vegetation on the cover, and completing noted maintenance. Groundwater monitoring programs will continue during this post-closure care period to ensure compliance with water quality standards.
In addition to state regulations, CCRs are regulated by the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
(RCRA). In compliance with this law, you can find data related to the operation and maintenance of our CCR disposal facilities on the following webpage.