Commissioner: On Coal Ash, “NIMBY” Doesn’t Cut It

Megan Lynch

UNION, Mo. (KMOX) – When it comes to storing tons of potentially toxic coal ash,  if Franklin County residents oppose the idea, are they the ones who should come up with an alternative?

That’s what one commissioner seems to be suggesting.

County Commissioners are set to make a final decision today, months after taking up what’s become a sometimes contentious public debate over whether the county should allow utilities to landfill the byproducts of burning coal.

Ameren has proposed just such a site — on 400 acres – at it’s Labadie Power Plant along the Missouri River.  The company has said it’s running out of existing storage and says it has designed the proposed landfill with multiple environmental safeguards.  A site investigation has already met state requirements.

“If we’re not going to approve this, then I think we have to give them some direction, or at least something other than we don’t want it.”  Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer tells KMOX it’s his opinion there has to be some partnership and balance between residents and corporate citizens.  “That plant has been there for 40 years and it’s been producing fly ash.  There’s two big fly ash ponds there now.  A lot of these, most of the people who are complaining moved into the area after the power plant was there.”

Opponents of the coal ash landfill have launched a public campaign to stop the coal ash landfill — including a website.  They contend that even with environmental measures the storage site still has a risk of exposing groundwater, and eventually drinking water, to potentially toxic heavy metals from the ash.

The group expressed frustration earlier this year they weren’t allowed to testify specifically about Ameren’s proposal.  Critics of Ameren’s plan have suggested an advisory committee study the issue and propose the best options for Franklin County, but that’s not part of the zoning proposal being decided this week.

The Commission meets this morning starting at 9:30.  While the meeting is public, the commission won’t be taking public comment, but will be considering hours of testimony offered in previous hearings.

Click here for Tuesday’s story

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