Labadie Plant
Labadie Plant courtesy of Ameren UE

Ameren Missouri is seeking court approval to test the groundwater of property owners near the utility company’s Labadie power plant to prove that the water is not contaminated.

In a motion filed this week in a lawsuit over a proposed landfill in Labadie, the utility company said that it recently installed groundwater monitoring wells near the plant and that tests confirmed that the groundwater complies with state and federal regulatory requirements.

Ameren is requesting permission from the court to test the groundwater of the property owners who filed a lawsuit last November against the county to overturn a land use code amendment that would allow Ameren to construct a coal ash landfill on 400 acres adjacent to its power plant.

The motion alleges that the plaintiffs in the case, which include the Labadie Environmental Organization, Inc., (LEO), have made the quality of the groundwater an issue in the case without offering any evidence of contamination.

“The plaintiffs have waged a public campaign suggesting that the drinking water sources in the area are threatened by Ameren Missouri’s current and future operations,” the motion alleges in support of an order that would permit Ameren representatives to gain access to plaintiffs’ property to test and inspect groundwater wells.

The plaintiffs in the suit include nine residential property owners who live near the proposed landfill site — some less than a mile away — and a couple who own a restaurant/bar in downtown Labadie.

According to the lawsuit, some of the plaintiffs rely on wells for drinking water and are concerned that a coal ash landfill built in the Missouri River floodplain will contaminate groundwater.

The county commission passed the land use amendments at issue in the case last October. The amendments make utility waste landfills, including the one proposed by Ameren Missouri, a permitted use so long as other requirements are met.

The multiple-count petition challenging the amendments allege that the county acted illegally at public hearings on the landfill issue by not allowing the public to comment specifically on Ameren Missouri or its proposed site for the coal ash landfill next to its power plant.

The suit argues that by “employing a legal fiction” that the proposed landfill zoning amendments did not apply to any particular project but were only generic in nature, the planning and zoning commission and the Franklin County Commission unlawfully deprived the public of an opportunity for a public hearing on the true subject of the zoning amendments.

The plaintiffs are seeking a writ of certiorari, asking the judge to reverse the commission’s decision.

The property owners sued the county commission but Ameren was allowed to intervene in the lawsuit as a defendant. The utility company is proposing to build a new coal combustion waste landfill on 400 acres of land adjacent to the power plant.

Earlier this month Ameren filed a separate motion in the case requesting the court to appoint a referee to take additional evidence in the case including expert testimony on the claims of existing or potential groundwater contamination.

The case has been assigned to Associate Circuit Court Judge Robert Schollmeyer.