Coal ash regulation continues to plague citizens determined on removing the waste product from two ponds at Ameren’s Labadie Power Plant.

Coal ash, the waste product from burning coal for energy, can contain heavy metals like arsenic, lead, chromium and mercury, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Labadie plant has ponds that contain the coal ash produced in the plant. Citizens are concerned that coal ash is leaking into the ground underneath the ponds. 

Residents organized their own meeting Thursday, June 27, to share concerns with how Ameren conducted a public meeting in May, according to Patricia Schuba, Labadie Environmental Organization (LEO) president. 

The LEO meeting was an opportunity for residents to openly express their concerns over how Ameren plans on closing the coal ash ponds.

Schuba said that the June 27 meeting was well-attended, and she was able to get 60 signatures for a petition set up to completely close the ponds. There also is an online petition set up that currently has 126 supporters. That can be found at thepetitionsite.com/559/895/043/missouris-children-and-those-that-love-them-demand-clean-closure-of-polluting-ash-ponds/.

Schuba said she plans on sending that to Ameren.

Options

Ameren held the May 29 meeting to discuss the closure of its ash ponds, as required by the EPA. Five proposals were presented to close the ponds. Four of the options recommend using a plastic cover and monitoring the groundwater. One option would include removing the coal ash from the ponds. Schuba says that removing the coal ash from the ponds is the safest option.

“We want it closed right now,” Schuba said. “Quickly and safely. It’s the only way to completely get rid of the potential pollution.”

Schuba alleges that Ameren has already made plans to cap the ponds and monitor the ground instead of completely ridding the coal ash from the ponds and moving it into a nearby landfill.

“They’re just not being public about it since the public is in opposition to the plan,” Schuba said. “We think they made their decision.”

Schuba said she believes a proposal has been chosen because a massive structure has been built on top of one of the ponds.

“They built a gigantic stormwater basin on an ash pond at Labadie. They’d have to remove that if they wanted to remove the coal ash completely from the ponds,” Schuba said.

Ameren told The Missourian all public comments made to them regarding the Labadie Power Plant will be made available on its website later this week, but a specific date wasn’t provided.

Schuba said the coal ash could go to a landfill instead of capping the ponds with a cover and that Ameren isn’t interested in that idea.

At the May meeting, Ameren said that the coal ash removal process could take up to 35 years and cost as much as $3 billion. It would take 200 truckloads a day to get rid of the material.

The options presented by Ameren show that capping the ash ponds and monitoring the groundwater, as opposed to removing the ash and treating the water in the ponds, could be the safest option. Their proposal indicates that there is no current risk.

Also at that meeting, Ameren made it clear that the water is safe to drink.

“Absolutely it’s safe,” Craig Giesmann, senior manager for environmental services at Ameren, said. “We’ve done tons of analysis and performed numerical methods, modeling, physical sampling in and around all of our facilities. The panel of industry experts that we have sampled are again, nationally known experts. They are certifying that the drinking water is safe.”