Events and News

EPA Risk Assessment Says Use of Spent Foundry Sands Safe in Soil-Related Applications

January 12, 2015

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Ohio State University, has released a risk assessment concluding that silica-based spent foundry sands from iron, steel and aluminum metalcasting facilities, when used in certain soil-related applications, are protective of human health and the environment and yield environmental benefits. 

“There is potential for substantial growth in the recycling of silica-based spent foundry sands,” said Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. “Our risk assessment concludes that the evaluated reuses are environmentally appropriate. Advancing the environmentally sound, beneficial use of industrial materials, such as spent foundry sands, provides substantial opportunities for addressing climate change and air quality, enhancing state, tribal and local partnerships, reducing costs, and working toward a sustainable future.” 

The American Foundry Society (AFS) enthusiastically supports the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) release of the Risk Assessment of Spent Foundry Sands in Soil-Related Applications. This risk assessment evaluated the beneficial use of non-olivine foundry sand produced by iron, steel and aluminum metalcasting operations in manufactured soils, soil-less media, or road base. Based on studies conducted by the USDA Agriculture Research Service (ARS) and the application of highly conservative screening techniques and risk screening models, this document concludes there is no evidence that these specified uses of foundry sand could pose significant risks to human health or the environment. The concentrations of metals in the foundry sand are very similar to those found in native soils in the U.S. and Canada.

Metalcasting facilities purchase virgin sand to create metal casting molds and cores. The sand is reused numerous times within the metalcasting operation itself. However, over time the sands become unusable and are referred to as spent foundry sands. The spent foundry sands are then reused in a number of ways, including as an ingredient in potting soil and as a foundation layer in roadway construction. The beneficial use of foundry sand also conserves virgin natural resources and reduces energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. An EPA analysis indicated current beneficial uses of foundry sand result in energy savings of 212 billion BTUs per year and prevention of more than 20,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.  With the release of this final risk assessment, AFS is committed to efforts that continue to conserve valuable natural resources and promote environmental stewardship by beneficially using more foundry sand in soil-related applications.

The risk assessment results are specific to silica-based spent foundry sands from iron, steel and aluminum foundry operations. Spent foundry sands from leaded and non-leaded brass and bronze foundries, and spent foundry sands containing olivine sand, are not included in this assessment. 

Sources of foundry sand can be found via the AFS Metal Facility Sand Locator program on its website (www.afsinc.org) under EHS/Governmental Affairs. More information on the risk assessment can be found at http://epa.gov/epawaste/conserve/imr/foundry/index.htm

Headquartered in Schaumburg, Ill., AFS is a not-for-profit technical and management society that has existed since 1896 to provide and promote knowledge and services that strengthen the metalcasting industry for the ultimate benefit of its customers and society.