About 20 Franklin County residents, many of whom live in the shadow of the Ameren power plant in Labadie, will travel to Jefferson City next week for a hearing on coal ash regulations.

Coal ash is the byproduct/waste produced from the burning of coal for energy.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the black, sludge-like substance can contain many toxic heavy metals like arsenic, lead, chromium and mercury.

Ameren’s Labadie Energy Center produces about 550,000 tons of coal ash per year, and about 60 percent of it is used for beneficial purposes, such as concrete and cement production.

The Labadie Environmental Organization (LEO) has been on the front lines of raising awareness of the potential dangers of the coal-fired waste. The group stated some of its concerns in a release to The Missourian this week.

“Coal ash has become a national problem that touches us here in Labadie because many of the sites where it is disposed of are uncovered and unlined ponds, sitting in groundwater, creating a contamination risk for surrounding communities and the environment,” the statement said.

“Most sites, like the one at Labadie and at Rush Island (Jefferson County), Meramec (St. Louis County) and Sioux (St. Charles County) are located on rivers and streams because power plants use large quantities of water to generate energy. There have been coal ash spills, overtopping of waste sites in flooding, and in some cases, releases of tons of material into the surrounding flood plain and/or river.”

The group noted that in 2008 a large ash pond in Tennessee collapsed and destroyed homes, a community and the river for miles.

As a result, the EPA began a process of rule writing to oversee these sites and protect people and the environment.

Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources (MO DNR) will conduct a meeting Tuesday, Feb. 19, at 1 p.m. in Jefferson City to gather concerns and answer questions citizens and experts may have about the rules it has written.

Members of LEO are asking community members to participate in the listening post and more importantly, the official hearing March 21 at 1 p.m. in Jefferson City. 

Concerns

The LEO statement also listed several of its main concerns about the new regulations being written by the state regarding coal ash.

• The use of alternative “risk-based” groundwater protection standards and assessments for remediation (pollution clean-up). 

• Modifications to deadlines to collect data, report information and clean up pollution.  

• Allow the state to suspend the groundwater monitoring requirements in the federal rule if the groundwater can be classified as having no potential to migrate, impact humans or the environment, or can be deemed to never be reasonably considered to be a clean source of groundwater for humans.

• Allows the utility employees to issue technical certifications themselves, rather than require them from an outside professional engineer.

Input

There are three ways to provide public input into the rule:

Testify at the public hearing March 21 in Jefferson City, or email comments to DNR by March 28 at 5 p.m. at dnr.mo.gov/proposed-rules/welcome.action#OPEN.

Attend the listening post in Jefferson City Feb. 19 at 1 p.m. at 1730 E. Elm St. 

Plan to attend the public hearing on the state’s proposed coal ash regulations March 21 at 1 p.m. in Jefferson City at the main DNR campus.