Labadie Plant
Labadie Plant courtesy of Ameren UE

Ameren Missouri recently announced it plans to repair a 30-gallon-per-minute leak from an unlined coal ash retention pond at its Labadie power plant, but details on the plan are vague.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on the leak, and another smaller, five-gallon-per-minute leak, at the beginning of the month.

The leaks are nothing new, however, dating back to 1992.

The Missourian first reported on the leaks in November 2010, when they were detailed to the Franklin County Commission by Washington University law students opposing a proposed coal ash landfill at the Labadie plant.

The leaks date back to at least 1992, when the company disclosed them in a report submitted to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

The Missourian sought information from Ameren on the details of the planned repairs, which will involve a french drain, or trench, allowing water that escapes to drain back into the pond, at the beginning of the month, and was told only that the company was trying to contact “the right person to talk with you.”

Since that time, company officials have spoken with KMOX radio and submitted a opinion piece to The Post-Dispatch.

Mike Menne, Ameren vice president of environmental services, told KMOX the leaks have been seen by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency inspectors and state DNR inspectors.

Menne said those officials were not concerned with the leaks.

He told KMOX that water discharged from the leaks is the same water the company monitors as part of its normal discharge process.

“The volume is more like turning on a garden hose,” he said.

Menne said Ameren is working on fixing the larger leak at the recommendation of the EPA.

“We’re going to take corrective action here and basically what we’ll do is collect that seepage water and return it to the pond,” he said.

Menne did not elaborate on why the repair was taking place now, and not when it was originally reported almost 20 years ago.

Since that time, at a rate of 35 gallons per minute, the pond has seeped roughly 350 million gallons of water.

Meanwhile the company is defending its ash management program.

Vice President Mark Birk said the Post-Dispatch’s article offered “a distorted and one-sided view.”

He accused the paper of attempting to create fears about water quality and called those fears unfounded.

“These ponds are necessary disposal sites for coal ash that results from generating electricity at coal-fired power plants,” Birk said. “These materials are inorganic non-hazardous waste and are commonly used in concrete and building materials.”

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

He said the EPA recently inspected all of the company’s ash ponds.

Birk also said the company conducted an engineering anaylsis to “confirm that construction of the proposed landfill will not affect the proper operation of the Missouri River floodplain.”

That analysis will be submitted to the county, he said.

Franklin County officials have stated numerous times that no additional new information will be accepted regarding land use amendments which could directly impact whether or not the landfill can be built, however.

Birk said the proposed landfill “needs to be built.”

The Labadie Environmental Organization has opposed the project and said the company’s lax attitude was alarming.

“It demonstrates the need for the DNR to take swift action to hold them accountable and protect Missourians’ drinking water,” the group said via its blog at