Ameren Missouri says the results of an investigation refute water contamination claims made by the Labadie Environmental Organization.
“This comprehensive evaluation demonstrates that there are no adverse impacts on human health from either surface water or groundwater uses resulting from coal ash management practices” at the Labadie Energy Center, the executive summary of the study states.
The findings refute “unsubstantiated comments made by citizen groups such as the Labadie Environmental Organization (LEO),” the report adds.
Ameren stands by the report’s findings, said Trina Muniz, Ameren spokeswoman.
LEO is a grassroots organization that opposes a proposed coal ash landfill that Ameren plans to build next to its Labadie power plant.
Patricia Schuba, LEO president, said she had not heard about the report Tuesday. However, Schuba looked into the study and raised some questions about Dr. Lisa Bradley, a toxicologist from AECOM, which conducted the study along with Golder Associates.
Schuba noted that Bradley sits on the executive committee of the American Coal Ash Association.
Bradley said the American Coal Ash Association is a non-profit group that seeks to find beneficial and environmentally sensitive uses of coal combustion products.
Bradley added that it is odd that LEO would question the Coal Ash Association when some people have expressed the desire to see the coal ash used in beneficial ways.
Bradley said she serves on the committee because she is an expert in coal ash and the health risks associated with it.
Ameren Missouri’s proposed landfill would be used to hold the ash that is the byproduct of burning coal.
There are currently two coal ash ponds at the site, one of which is lined. The ponds are becoming full, which is why Ameren is looking to build the landfill for future storage.
Meanwhile, some citizens, including LEO members, say they are worried that the landfill would present health risks, especially when it comes to water resources.
“LEO’s comments have been expressed without reference to actual data or examples of impact,” the study states.
The study did not find high concentrations of boron or sulfate in groundwater or surface water.
Conclusions in the report are based on data from 16 surface water samples from the Missouri River and Labadie Creek and 90 groundwater samples. Evaluation methods were consistent with state and federal environmental programs.
“These conclusions and the data upon which they are based are technically sound and scientifically defensible,” the report adds.
The Labadie Energy Center’s coal ash management practices are not hurting human health through drinking water use of the Missouri River or groundwater or recreational use of the Missouri River or Labadie Creek, the report states.
But Schuba said arsenic at six times the drinking water standard has been detected around the landfill site.
Bradley said the arsenic concentrations are naturally occurring and not from Ameren’s coal ash management practices. The Labadie Bottom is an area with much organic matter, she added.
Bradley hopes the study can be an educational tool for the public.
Schuba said there needs to be additional testing to find out where the arsenic is coming from and what can be done to mitigate it.
The goal is to prevent contamination of drinking water wells, Schuba said.
That is Ameren’s goal as well, Muniz said. Moreover, the study shows groundwater is flowing away from homes, not toward them, Muniz said. So even if there was contamination it would flow away from the residents’ homes, she added.
The report from Ameren is part of the ongoing battle between LEO and Ameren over the proposed landfill.
LEO has filed a lawsuit against the Franklin County Commission, challenging the legality of the zoning amendment that allows the landfill. The case is in the Eastern District Court of Appeals.
Also, residents and LEO have filed an appeal with the county board of zoning adjustment, charging that the proposed landfill liner is not 2 feet above the natural water table as required by the county’s land-use regulations.
But Ameren believes its landfill design complies with ordinance requirements and that LEO’s latest filing is without merit, according to Muniz.
Ameren also says its coal ash landfill would be safe since it would meet government regulations, have a liner and groundwater monitoring equipment.
Ameren is still going through the process of getting the landfill approved with the Missouri Public Service Commission.
Muniz said the coal ash would be stored in the landfill in a solid state.
Formal hearings before the Missouri Public Service Commission are scheduled to take place in Jefferson City March 31-April 2.
The parties that will take part in the formal hearings will include Ameren, the Sierra Club, LEO, the Office of Public Counsel and the PSC staff.