Spring 2022 Symposium

Coal Ash: How safe is it and how should we manage it?

March 25, 2022 – Hybrid: Durham, NC & Virtual

Coal ash waste produced by a coal-burning power plant. (Source: Shutterstock)

Concerns related to coal ash management have increased over the past two decades, particularly in light of spills such as those in Kingston, TN (2008) and the Dan River, NC (2014), along with increasing evidence for the leaking of coal ponds and contamination of associated water sources. But what exactly are the environmental risks of coal ash and how are they typically managed at coal plants? Are there health effects associated with exposure to coal ash? What should be done to manage this abundant waste stream and ensure that local communities do not suffer any adverse consequences? Please join us on March 25th as we discuss these topics, and more, with researchers who are actively addressing these questions.


(all times are Eastern)
8:30-9:00 amRegistration (refreshments available)
9:00-9:15 amWelcome & Opening Remarks: Toddi A. Steelman, PhD (she/her/hers); Stanback Dean, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University
9:15-10:15 amEnvironmental Chemistry & Risks of Coal Ash
Moderator: Avner Vengosh, PhD; Distinguished Professor of Environmental Quality, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University
Coal Ash on the Move: Dispersal and Detection After a Spill. Ellen A Cowan, PhD (she/her/hers); Department of Geological & Environmental Sciences, Appalachian State University
Geochemical proxies for detecting coal ash contamination in the environment. Zhen Wang, PhD Candidate (he/him/his); Earth & Climate Sciences, Duke University
10:15-10:30 amBreak (refreshments available)
10:30-12:00 pmHealth Risks of Coal Ash
Moderator: Heather Stapleton, PhD (she/her/hers); Ronie-Rochele Distinguished Professor, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University
Ecological Impacts of Coal Ash Spills. Shea Tuberty, PhD (he/him/his); Department of Biology, Appalachian State University
Coal-fired power plants and human health: health impacts, current issues, and future studies. Julia Kravchenko, MD, PhD; Department of Surgery, Duke University School of Medicine (REMOTE)
Coal ash and mental health conditions in children aged 6-14 years old. Kristina M. Zierold, PhD (she/her/hers); Department of Environmental Health Sciences, The University of Alabama at Birmingham (REMOTE)
12:00-1:00 pmLunch
1:00-2:00 pmRemediation & Management of Coal Ash
Moderator: Heileen (Helen) Hsu-Kim, PhD (she/her/hers); Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Pratt School of Engineering, Duke University
Reclaiming Abandoned Coal Mines Using Coal Combustion By-Products. Chin-Min Cheng, PhD, PE (he/him/his); Senior Research Engineer, Department of Civil, Environmental, & Geodetic Engineering, The Ohio State University
Performance and Risks of Acid Mine Drainage Neutralization with Fly Ash. Rachel Landman (she/her/hers); Raftelis
2:00-2:15 pmBreak (refreshments available)
2:15-3:45 pmPolicy, Law, & Community Impacts
Moderator: Michele Okoh, JD (she/her/hers); Senior Lecturing Fellow, Environmental Law & Policy Clinic, Duke University School of Law
Using Art and Creative Placemaking in a Coal Ash Impacted Community. Caroline Rutledge Armijo (she/her/hers); The Lilies Project
Coal Ash Waste: The Visible Externality. Ruth Santiago (she/her/hers); Community Lawyer, Comité Diálogo Ambiental
Coal Ash 2022: Federal Actions, Community Opportunities, and Continuing Challenges. Lisa Evans (she/her/hers); Senior Counsel, Earthjustice
3:45-4:45 pmPanel Discussion
4:45 pmAdjourn

Speaker Biographies

Please go HERE to learn more about our panel of speakers.

Registration: In-Person *CLOSED*

Location: JB Duke Hotel, 230 Science Dr, Durham, NC 27708

Registration for in-person attendance is now CLOSED. We cannot accept late registrations or walk-in/same-day registrations at the symposium. If you missed our registration deadline for in-person attendance, please see the registration details below for virtual (Zoom) attendance.

Register for in-person attendance HERE. Registration for in-person attendance is open to everyone.

COVID-19 safety guidelines:

  • In-person attendees must be fully vaccinated (i.e. two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine) and boosted. All registered in-person attendees must attest to their vaccination status when submitting their online registration form.
  • Masks are required to be worn in the meeting rooms and all indoor spaces.
  • All attendees should follow good hand hygiene protocols and any other safety practices in place at the time of the symposium.
  • If you feel unwell or have symptoms of COVID-19, you should stay home and attend virtually (see below). To allow for last-minute changes, registration for the virtual format will remain open until the day of the event (March 25).

In-person registration closed at 11:59 pm Eastern on March 15.

Registration: Virtual (Zoom)

The symposium will be live-streamed via Zoom and remote participants will have the opportunity to comment and ask questions in real time throughout the day. The sessions will not be recorded.

Use the links below to register for the sessions you are interested in. If you wish to attend both the morning and afternoon sessions, you must register separately for each — the Zoom link is different for each session. Registration for virtual attendance is open to everyone.

  • Morning Session: 9:00 am – 12:00 pm: Register HERE
  • Afternoon Session: 1:00 – 4:45 pm: Register HERE

Virtual registration will remain open until the day of the event (March 25).


If you have questions about this event, please contact our Event Coordinator.


This symposium is supported in part by the National Institute Of Environmental Health Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under the Duke University Superfund Research Program (award P42ES010356) and the Duke University Program in Environmental Health (award T32ES021432). Symposium content is solely the responsibility of the speakers and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

This symposium is also supported in part by the Duke Environmental Health Scholars Program.  Symposium content is solely the responsibility of the speakers and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Environmental Health Scholars Program.