Patricia Schuba

Big Turnout for Franklin County Public Hearing on Coal Ash Landfilling Regulations
Metro St. Louis Citizens Show Up to Say NO to Coal Ash Landfilling in Floodways and Missouri River Bottoms

Labadie Coal Fired Power Plant

An estimated 200-300 people attended the Tuesday, December 14 hearing at East Central College in Union, Franklin County, Missouri to hear arguments on the proposed coal ash landfilling regulation changes. Forty six testified and approximately forty more wanted to testify before the Franklin County Commission. Because of the large turnout an additional hearing will be held in January or February of 2011. Labadie Environmental Organization brought in top notch experts in hydrogeology and coal ash landfilling to make comment on the risks of landfilling coal ash waste. They provide scientific proof that floodplains are particularly vulnerable to contamination. The Commission promised a date to be determined and posted this coming week.

Franklin County is considering adopting first ever utility landfill regulation codes that could potentially allow toxic chemicals to be stored indefinitely in floodplains and bottomlands of rivers. These areas are vulnerable to leaching and contamination of groundwater and regional drinking water. The code change is likely in response to Ameren Missouri’s proposed 400 acre, 100 feet tall coal ash landfill for the Labadie Bottoms near their Labadie Plant. The plant is the 14th largest coal-fired plant in the United States, the largest in Missouri and the 4th highest emitter of mercury.

The Labadie Plant is an old plant that has made operational upgrades that the EPA believes warrant pollution capturing upgrades. Despite what the EPA has said, Ameren has not invested in the upgrades. Instead Ameren wants to invest money in a huge landfill to receive coal ash from other Metro St. Louis plants. Citizens are concerned that the current impoundments are either leaking or discharging into the Missouri River and both the old ponds and the new proposed landfill are all in the floodplain with a high groundwater table. The point source pollution is just miles upstream from drinking water intakes for St. Louis County and City. Millions could be negatively impacted over time. Expert witness Dr. Charles Norris, hydro geologist, stated that it is not if a coal ash landfill will contaminate, it is when. Liners and good design only slow the eventual contamination. Given landfills are permanent structures, why would we endanger our water resources by allowing placement in floodplains and in vulnerable geology. Dr. Robert Criss, hydro geologist from Washington University, clearly stated the inherent risks of placement in floodplains and specifically in the Labadie Bottoms which is prone to flooding and liquefaction during seismic events.

In summary, the citizens of the region came out in force to say no to the County’s proposal. Their collective voices warranted another hearing and another chance to make clear to County decision makers that the risks to the public are too great and Ameren can find another alternative. Please support the effort by going to www.leomo.info to sign the online petition and find out how you can help to protect regional water resources from coal ash pollution.