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Ameren says Plant Seepage will be Controlled

Megan Lynch
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LABADIE, Mo. (KMOX) – A report this week that a massive retention pond for coal ash in Franklin County has been seeping water for decades has an environmental group calling for more controls and a utility restating its need for a new facility.

Ameren says regulators know about the water getting outside a berm that holds in tons of waste water and the by-products of burning coal at it’s Labadie power plant.  (The issue was featured Wednesday in the St. Louis Post Dispatch) 

“It’s something that the federal EPA inspectors have seen, the DNR (Missouri Department of Natural Resources) inspectors have seen and not been concerned about it,” says Mike Menne, Ameren Corporation’s Vice President of Environmental Services.

Menne says the water hasn’t been tested outside the pond, but the water discharged into it has.  “This water is the same water that we do monitor on a regular basis that comes out of our normal discharge.”

Menne says the water is near the surface and contained to plant property.  “The volume is more like turning on a garden hose,” explains Menne. 

And Menne says on the recommendations of the US EPA, Ameren is already working on a fix.  “We are going to take corrective action here and basically what we’ll do is collect that seepage water and return it to the pond.” 

Meantime, he says it does bolster the company’s argument they need more storage for coal ash.  Ameren has proposed a landfill at the Labadie plant on the Missouri River that would store the byproduct in solid form with liners and built-in water collection system.

The Labadie Environmental Organization hasn’t been convinced.  The citizens group formed to fight the landfill plan.  

“This material should be handled safely, and in a flood plain is never the safest location,” argues LEO President Patricia Schuba.

Schuba has also been monitoring issues at Labadie’s aging retention ponds.  “I was personally shocked that the [Missouri] Department of Natural Resources was well aware of the situation also and there’s actually been no action, no testing on site.”

Schuba says it points to a lack of state and federal oversight.  “Missouri has a lack of regulations that allow for monitoring and follow-up at these sites.” But she adds, she thinks there’s more the state could be doing under current rules.

A recent study revealed higher than allowed levels of arsenic, lead and other potentially toxic substances in ground water near coal ash ponds in other states. 

“We’re concerned that this material is contaminating the flood plain right now.”

A proposal to allow Ameren’s coal ash landfill with some restrictions is on hold in the Franklin County Commission.

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