Members of the Sierra Club and Labadie Environmental Organization on Thursday submitted more than 3,500 petitions to Gov. Jay Nixon asking that Missouri’s water be protected from coal ash waste.

The petitions urge the governor to reject all proposals to build coal ash landfills in Missouri floodplains and to support strong national safeguards on disposing coal ash waste.

“We’re asking Gov. Nixon to ensure that we can have access to clean water – which is a basic right that every community should have guaranteed,” LEO President Patricia Schuba said in a news release. “The struggle of our community to keep coal ash pollution out of our floodplain is just one example of a statewide issue that plagues so many waterways in Missouri.”

Ameren Missouri plans to build a 166-acre coal ash landfill adjacent to its power plant in Labadie. LEO and the Sierra Club on Thursday hand delivered comments on the proposed landfill to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Coal ash is the byproduct of burning coal to generate electricity. Ameren wants to build a coal ash landfill to store the material because ash storage ponds at the site are becoming full.

But some citizens have said they are worried that the landfill could contaminate groundwater wells and threaten their health.

Ameren vows that its landfill would be built in a safe manner and uphold stringent engineering and environmental requirements.

The Environmental Protection Agency classifies coal ash as a nonhazardous material, according to Warren Wood, Ameren’s vice president of legislative and regulatory affairs.

Some residents have raised concerns about coal ash landfill disasters in the Dan River in North Carolina and in Kingston Tenn.

But Ameren has said those coal ash storage areas were different than what is being planned for Labadie.

Those areas used a “wet pond solution,” according to Wood. The proposed Ameren coal ash landfill would store the material in a “dry, concrete-like state,” Wood has said.

If the landfill was hit by a flood, it would be like water running over a parking lot because the coal ash would be in a solid state, Wood has said.

Some people have asked DNR to at least delay issuing the construction permit for the Labadie landfill until coal ash regulations from the EPA are released in December.

Recent tests near the Labadie plant showed unsafe levels of arsenic at more than six times the federal drinking water standards, a news release from the Sierra Club states.

“Arsenic is toxic, and exposure is linked to bladder, lung, kidney and gastrointestinal cancers,” Joe Bachant said in the news release.

He is a former Missouri Department of Conservation staff member and expert on stream monitoring and heavy metal testing, the news release says.

But Wood has said Ameren hired a toxicologist to investigate areas around the plant, and “they found zero coal combustion products in that water,” Wood said.