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Franklin County to consider relaxing landfill restrictions; might pave way for Ameren project

This diagram is an excerpt of “figure 1” from Ameren’s “Detailed Site Investigation,” showing the location of the company’s proposed coal ash landfill.
Ameren Missouri
This diagram is an excerpt of “figure 1” from Ameren’s “Detailed Site Investigation,” showing the location of the company’s proposed coal ash landfill.";s:3:"uri";

A set of proposed amendments to zoning restrictions in Franklin County may pave the way for Ameren to build the coal ash landfill they’ve been pushing for since 2009, despite environmental concerns from residents.  

The utility company received approval in January from state legislators to build the proposed coal ash landfill near Ameren Missouri’s coal-fired power plant near Labadie, Mo., under the condition that the landfill be constructed at least five feet above groundwater. Ameren will present its revised construction plans to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources in May for full approval.

Franklin County’s Planning and Zoning Commission will consider the proposed zoning changes at a public meeting Tuesday, but comments from the public will not be taken, according to a posted agenda.    

You can read the documents with the proposed changes here and here.

Environmental advocates who oppose the landfill’s construction say the county’s zoning amendments would effectively gut a set of local protections put in place back in 2011. Coal ash is a byproduct of coal-fired power plants that contains toxic substances including mercury, lead and arsenic. About 2,500 residents live in the town of Labadie, which sits in between the Missouri River and Interstate 44, west of St. Louis.

Ameren's coal-fired plant in Labadie.
Credit (Veronique LaCapra/St. Louis Public Radio)
Ameren's coal-fired power plant near Labadie.

Labadie resident Patricia Schuba, leads the Labadie Environmental Organization. She said she had three major concerns:

  • Oversight of groundwater monitoring and construction would be transferred to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Missouri Department of Natural Resources. If the amended rules are approved, they may be put in place before updated EPA rules go into effect, leaving a window of time without some protections.
  • An independent engineer for the county would no longer be required to approve new construction, plans for monitoring ground and the transport of coal ash.
  • The rules strike out a county requirement that coal ash be removed in sealed container trucks, as opposed to dump trucks with tarp coverings.

“There’s this veiled notion that we have protections from the state agency and the EPA. That’s not true,” Schuba said. 
In a statement, Ameren Missouri said the company fully supports the county’s decision to revise the landfill ordinance, and will continue construction of the landfill during the revision process.

“Building this facility is the right solution for customers and a responsible solution for the environment,” the statement read.

Attorney Maxine Lipeles, who represents the Labadie Environmental Organization in an ongoing lawsuit to oppose the landfill’s construction, said it’s unclear if the changes would affect the suit.

Franklin County counselor Mark Vincent declined to comment on the proposed amendments before the Planning and Zoning Commission has a chance to make its recommendation. In an email to LEO’s attorney, he wrote that he had requested the changes because of “the language included in [the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’s} permit and information which has been gained throughout the ongoing process.”

The commission’s ruling will then go before the full Franklin County Commission.

Follow Durrie Bouscaren on Twitter for more health and science news: @durrieB

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