Labadie Power Plant

View of the Labadie Power Plant from Augusta Bottoms

State officials have found new leaks in coal ash retention ponds at Ameren Missouri’s Labadie power plant.

Missouri Department of Natural Resources officials visited the Labadie plant Sept. 20, said Renee Bungart, DNR director of communications.

During that visit, the company observed three visible leaks in the ash drying ponds, two of which were not related to those reported in 1992.

In 1992, the company reported two leaks, one seeping 5 gallons per minute and the other seeping 30 gallons per minute.

Media reports at the beginning of September cited the decades-old leaks as causes for concern.

Some time before DNR’s Sept. 20 visit, Ameren filled in one of those old leaks.

The other leak was found near the discharge pipe and “empties into the same location as the drainage pipe, which is in compliance,” Bungart said.

“The other two leaks observed on this site visit were visible along the edge of the ash pond and are unrelated to those reported in 1992,” she said. “Of these two leaks, one was small enough that the discharge rate was unknown. The other leak was reported as discharging approximately 30 gallons per minute into land owned by Ameren.”

Bungart said the company agreed to address all three issues within 90 days.

“The department believes that Ameren’s time line to address these leaks is reasonable. The department will continue to evaluate the situation to ensure the situation is resolved,” she said.

Another site visit will be held within the 90-day period, Bungart said, to verify repairs are taking place and again after the first of the year to confirm they have been completed.

Members of the Labadie Environmental Organization, a citizens group opposed to the company’s proposal for a new, dry ash storage landfill on 400 acres of land near the existing retention ponds, told county commissioners about the new “third leak” Tuesday.

“Now is the time to let DNR do its job and investigate the site for contamination,” said Teresa Connelly, LEO board member.

DNR does not plan to investigate the site further, however.

Connelly urged commissioners to hold off on making a decision about regulations for utility waste landfills, like the one Ameren is proposing, pending an investigation.

“We urge you to postpone your vote on the landfill code changes and demand an independent investigation of the leaks and potential contamination,” Connelly said. “That, or vote no on the code changes.”

County Counselor Mark Vincent said previously he hoped to have the final draft of the land use regulations regarding landfills completed by the end of this week and for commissioners to vote on them next Tuesday, Oct. 25.

Rita Holmes-Bobo, communications manager for Ameren Missouri, told The Missourian that she was not aware of any new leaks beyond those identified in the 1990s.

“A third leak has not been recently identified,” she said. “We don’t have any reason to keep that information secret.

“There are only two seeps (at the Labadie plant),” Holmes-Bobo said.

“Someone has provided you with inaccurate information,” she told a Missourian reporter.

Regardless of the leaks, Ameren Vice President Mark Birk said in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial last month that the materials in the ash ponds “are inorganic nonhazardous waste and are commonly used in concrete and building materials.”

Birk said the company has a strong record of managing its ash ponds responsibly.

Holmes-Bobo was shown the statement from DNR, and did not reply to a request for comment prior to The Missourian's press deadline. Her reply was received via email at 6:10 p.m. Tuesday.

In the response, Holmes-Bobo said the leaks DNR detailed were not new.

"There are two leaks. One of the leaks has the same seepage in two locations and is catagorized as one leak," she said. "We will continue our commitment to operating the landfill in a manner that is safe and protective of the environment."