Ameren Missouri has applied for a permit with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to build a coal-ash landfill next to its power-generating plant in Labadie.
The 1,500-page construction permit application was filed with the state agency on Tuesday, and Ameren hopes to have approval within a year.
But the Missouri Sierra Club plans to oppose the landfill permit. John Hickey, director of the Missouri Sierra Club, said he still believes the landfill project can be stopped.
Ameren should be required to conduct groundwater monitoring at the Labadie power plant site before the DNR permit is approved, Hickey said.
DNR should not allow Ameren to build the coal ash landfill until it is determined whether there is already groundwater contamination from the coal ash ponds currently at the site, Hickey said.
“It’s just common sense,” he said.
Ameren spokesman Kent Martin said the company will conduct a groundwater study before the landfill operating permit is granted.
Hickey said coal ash contains mercury and arsenic, which he said are toxic. Mercury can cause brain damage in children.
Residents should be protected from the coal ash getting into the groundwater and ultimately into drinking water, Hickey said.
“It’s dangerous stuff,” he said.
Without approval from the DNR, Ameren cannot build its coal ash landfill. The landfill is needed because ash storage ponds are reaching capacity, according to Ameren.
Ameren is expecting DNR engineering staff to conduct a detailed review of the application.
“I’m sure they’re going to go through it with a fine-toothed comb,” said Paul Pike, environmental science executive with Ameren.
Ameren has also filed a separate application with the Public Service Commission to get a certificate of public need and necessity to expand the boundaries of the Labadie Energy Center by 813 acres for the coal ash landfill.
The Sierra Club also plans to oppose that application, Hickey said.
Not all of the 813 acres will be for the actual landfill. The landfill itself is only planned to be 166 acres, and the area surrounding it would be a buffer, according to Ameren.
Asked how Ameren feels about its chances of getting DNR approval of the project, Pike said, “We’re obviously hopeful that we’ve got all the issues resolved.”
Pike added that it “should be a fairly smooth process.”
The permit describes how Ameren intends to build the landfill and includes plans for monitoring groundwater, Pike said.
The landfill is expected to meet coal ash disposal needs for about 20 years, and it will be built in several phases, with phase one expected to cost $27 million.
Pike noted that a copy of the application has been provided to Franklin County.
Groundwater monitoring wells would be installed around the landfill and checked quarterly to make sure there is no contamination, Pike said.
He noted that Ameren has also met with the Department of Geology and Land Survey in Rolla about the proposed groundwater monitoring plan.
This would not be Ameren’s first coal ash landfill. It has three coal ash landfills in Illinois and has plans to build one near St. Charles.
The landfill planned for Labadie is a fairly basic facility, according to Pike.
“It doesn’t need lots of bells and whistles,” he said, noting that the landfill will only be used to dispose of ash and sludge.
The landfill will be built upward. It could go as a high as 100 feet, he said. Two feet of compacted clay will be put down for a liner and a synthetic liner will also be used, he said.
There also will be a system in place to collect any leakage from the landfill so it can be treated, Pike said.
The Labadie Environmental Organization, a group of Labadie property owners, recently sued the county over the proposed landfill. They argued that the landfill poses a health risk since it would be built in a floodplain. An associate circuit court judge recently ruled in the county’s favor, but the plaintiffs have vowed to appeal.
Hickey said his group is communicating with the Labadie Environmental Organization.
The DNR will hold a public hearing on the permit application, but the hearing has not been scheduled, according to Ameren.