MOUNDSVILLE - Synthetic gypsum wallboard such as that produced at Certainteed in Marshall County not only is high-tech, it also can be beneficial to the environment.
Certainteed and its products also provide a new direction for a company such as American Electric Power to recycle a portion of its industrial waste.
Certainteed, located in Marshall County near AEP's Mitchell Plant, uses synthetic gypsum, also known as fly ash - the byproduct of scrubbers installed at the power plant about a decade ago - to make drywall.
The product not only provides a commodity for Certainteed but also solves a problem for AEP, as the federal government has been moving to crack down on allowing fly ash in landfills.
About 99 percent of Certainteed's product comes from recycled content.
The success with synthetic gypsum came with the discovery that the byproduct of the scrubbers could be used to make drywall.
Fly ash can be costly to deal with if it has to be managed and transported to landfills, a process that consumed manpower, fuel and other resources.
Certainteed is not the only company making drywall from synthetic gypsum. But it likely is the only company that literally is located right next door to its supplier.
The immediate benefit for AEP continues to come in the form of reductions to what would have been landfill related operational costs and increasing federal regulations.
A 2-mile long conveyor belt, which spans W.Va. 2, connects the two sites, bringing the synthetic gypsum from the power plant to CertainTeed's manufacturing facility.
Certainteed also receives synthetic gypsum from AEP's Cardinal Plant in Brilliant. The product is conveyed by barge via the Ohio River.
Having a consistently reliable supply of synthetic gypsum, and having it available via an extremely cost-effective supply chain, is a unique advantage to this production effort, making the deal beneficial for both companies.
CertainTeed is a subsidiary of Saint-Gobain, one of the top 100 industrial companies in the world. CertainTeed's product line includes gypsum board products, sheathing products and finishing products for builders and distributors.
When it comes to the products manufactured at the Moundsville facility, the success achieved with the use of synthetic gypsum at one end of a 2-mile long conveyor belt can easily be said to begin at the other - particularly from environmental and economic standpoints.
One of the main concerns moving forward is how the federal government will further regulate the product.
Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., has long sought to stop the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from regulating fly ash as a hazardous substance. He also believes fly ash should continue to be allowed for use in concrete and other construction-related materials.
"The ... message regarding removal of the coal ash provision is the loss of hundreds of thousands of construction jobs because of the increased cost of concrete and the additional loss of 316,000 jobs related to the beneficial recycling of coal ash into both construction and consumer goods," he said.
"It's a shame our colleagues in the Senate wanted to make this more of a political statement in their ongoing 'war on coal' rather than an issue about jobs and the environment. The reuse and the safe disposal of coal ash have been in front of Congress for the past 30 years, but they keep 'kicking the can down the road' instead of adopting a bipartisan solution. For the first time in all these years, Congress actually had a solution, and one which included federal EPA oversight."