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Franklin County residents reach agreement with Ameren over coal ash landfill in Labadie

Ameren's power plant in Labadie is the largest in the state.
Art Chimes

Opponents of Ameren’s plans to build a coal ash landfill in Labadie have reached an agreement with the company, ending years of contentious debate.

The settlement eliminates all pending lawsuits and clears the way for Ameren to start construction.

But it also ensures that the landfill will be built at least five feet above groundwater, and that no coal ash can be brought in from any other power plant — two protections that some Franklin County residents had fought for.

Ameren’s Warren Wood called the agreement “good news” for all involved. "It memorializes several agreements and will put to rest further litigation associated with constructing this facility,"

"It’s a state-of-the-art dry landfill, and the Labadie Energy Center Project — we’re proud to be bringing this process forward," he said.

Wood said Ameren will close its two existing coal ash ponds, complete construction of the new landfill and start storing coal ash there by early 2017.

Labadie Environmental Organization president Patricia Schuba said Thursday’s settlement doesn’t mean Ameren is off the hook. “Everyone looks at a settlement and says, 'OK, it’s over with, you guys cave.' We have not caved,” Schuba said. “We took the best option available to us to protect the community.”

Schuba still maintains that by building a coal ash landfill in the floodplain of the Missouri River, Ameren is putting drinking water at risk. “We’re going to hold them accountable in any way we can,” Schuba said. “Because it’s our lives and our kids. And everyone’s water.”

The agreement between LEO and Ameren comes two days after the Franklin County board of commissioners approved amendments to its landfill regulations.

Ameren’s landfill will also need to comply with the requirements in its state-issued construction permit, and with the federal coal ash rule which goes into effect in October.

Follow Véronique LaCapra on Twitter: @KWMUScience