© 2024 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

State Approves New Coal Ash Landfill In Franklin County

Ameren's 2,400-megawatt plant near Labadie, Missouri, is the state's largest coal-fired power plant. It produces an average of 550,000 tons of coal ash each year.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

State regulators have given Ameren the go-ahead to build a new coal ash landfill next to its power plant in Franklin County.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources approved Ameren’s Labadie landfill construction permit on Friday.

In its approval letter, the state agency said that Ameren’s landfill plan met or exceeded all the requirements of the new federal coal ash rule ― except one.

The rule, which was finalized on December 19, says new coal ash landfills must be built at least five feet above groundwater.

Even though the rule won’t go into effect for at least another six months, state regulators said Ameren would need to comply with that new requirement.

Labadie resident Patricia Schuba said she’s pleasantly surprised. "When you talk about five feet above the uppermost limit of the uppermost aquifer, that doesn’t leave anything to ambiguity," Schuba said.

Schuba said she had not yet had time to thoroughly read the approved permit, but her only initial concern was that the height requirement was not defined relative to sea level. "That would have been more protective," Schuba said.

Schuba leads the Labadie Environmental Organization, a group that has opposed the landfill for years, mainly due to concerns about drinking water contamination. Coal ash contains toxic elements like arsenic, chromium and lead which can cause cancer, developmental problems and other serious health issues. Most Franklin County residents get their drinking water from groundwater wells and the landfill will sit in the floodplain of the Missouri River, the source of drinking water for most St. Louis County residents.

In response to the approval of its construction permit, Ameren Missouri provided the following written statement from Michael Moehn, the company's president and CEO:

"The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has affirmed that Ameren Missouri's state-of-the art landfill at Labadie Energy Center is an environmentally sound solution in the public's best interest. By granting the permit, the agency agrees the landfill can be constructed and operated safely, meets all engineering standards required by the state of Missouri and Franklin County and is consistent with best practices advocated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Ameren Missouri has spent the last six years in a lengthy and inclusive process with stakeholders to get this permit. That process included public meetings sponsored by the DNR, five days of hearings before the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) and eight days of public hearings in Franklin County. This is good news for a critical regional asset our customers depend upon. Labadie Energy Center provides 40 percent of the electricity in the St. Louis metropolitan area; employs hundreds of people; and is a key reason why we are able to provide our customers with reliability that is among the best in the United States. Labadie's efficient operations also help to keep Ameren Missouri's electric rates more than 17 percent below the average of Midwest states and 24 percent below the national average."

Follow Véronique LaCapra on Twitter: @KWMUScience