K016 is toxic, intrinsic and a lot more than waste

Aug 21, 2008 | 12:19 PM |

Whether driven by feelings of environmental stewardship or ever-tightening environmental standards, the end result is the same steel industry views and practices for handling electric-arc furnace (EF) dust are changing.

Zinc isn't the problem in the dust generated by the steel industry's EF shops; other elements in the melt shop's by-product have prompted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to label it a hazardous waste named K061.

In the past, mini-mills and some other EF shops looked at it as simply a waste product to be hauled away. Some sent it to processors who, if they didn't extract much metal from the dust, turned it into a solid that could be disposed of. That practice has changed for many EF steelmakers. The material is now turned over to one of a handful of companies that recover the zinc and iron. When the zinc is removed, what is left is an iron-rich material. Unfortunately, it also contains elements like chromium, lead and mercury that are deemed too toxic for landfills. Should that material or those compounds containing the elements deteriorate, they could leach into the local water table and contaminate it. That's why the EPA has restricted its use. Much of the iron-rich material is used as aggregate in asphalt and concrete, some of which is rendered inert and some recaptured as iron.....

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