ECONOMY

Coal ash: 'Why in the world would we be importing it?'

Shipping containers full of foreign coal ash are coming into the United States through the Port of Virginia.

That irritates some lawmakers, since Virginia is among many states struggling to dispose of this industrial waste from coal-fired power plants. Critics call it a missed opportunity, because coal ash is used in everything from roads to concrete to wallboard.

Environmentalists want more recycling of the ash disposed of in 1,100 dumps around the country. Most of it remains near aging coal plants, where it could potentially contaminate water.

Why would companies import coal ash from countries including China and Poland? Blame the nation's shift away from coal. The switch to other electricity sources is reducing the availability of freshly produced coal ash, so industries that need it have begun looking elsewhere.