Charging that a local county zoning board made an “illegal” decision, an environmental group has appealed to circuit court a ruling that a proposed Ameren coal ash landfill would meet zoning regulations.

The Labadie Environmental Organization argues that the proposed landfill, which would be built adjacent to Ameren’s Labadie power plant, would not be 2 feet above the natural water table as required by the county’s zoning code.

The Franklin County Board of Zoning Adjustment rejected LEO’s argument last month in a 4-0 vote, upholding the decision of the county’s land-use administrator, Scottie Eagan, that the landfill complies with the local zoning code.

“BOZA’s decision to affirm the land-use administrator’s decisions and determinations was illegal, unreasonable, not authorized by law, and unsupported by competent and substantial evidence because Ameren’s landfill liner will not be at least 2 feet above the natural water table, in violation of the (county code),” the appeal states.

The 2-foot separation requirement is designed to protect groundwater, which is used for drinking and agriculture, according to Maxine Lipeles, LEO’s attorney.

Plaintiffs in the case own and live on property near the power plant and say they are concerned that operating a coal ash landfill in a floodplain without the 2-foot separation requirement will contaminate their wells, threaten their health and reduce their property values.

The appeal cites the portion of the county code that states, “The clay or composite soil component at the base of the utility waste landfill shall be at least 2 feet above the natural water table in the site area.”

Water Table Debate

Lipeles has noted that Ameren’s construction permit application filed with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources states that the natural water table is 464 feet at the landfill site. That elevation “clearly” puts portions of the landfill in contact with the groundwater, Lipeles argued.

She said in the May BOZA hearing that Ameren “manufactured” another water table elevation when the 464-foot figure in its construction permit application was challenged by LEO.

Witnesses for Franklin County and Ameren testified at the BOZA hearing that the natural water table elevation at the site is actually lower than 464 feet.

An independent engineering firm hired by Franklin County said the natural water table elevation is 457.17 feet.

An engineer also testified for Ameren that the natural water table elevation at the site is 459.4 feet.

In addition, an Ameren engineer said at the hearing that Missouri regulations “expressly contemplate” groundwater touching the liner. That is the point of having a liner, he added.

Ameren’s attorney, Tim Tryniecki, said at the hearing, “We’re not here to tell you that water will never touch the liner.”

LEO’s appeal is filed in Franklin County Circuit Court and has been assigned to Associate Circuit Judge Ada Brehe-Krueger of Hermann.