Don’t Assume Groundwater Is Safe - The Missourian: Opinion

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Don’t Assume Groundwater Is Safe

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Posted: Saturday, May 5, 2012 6:32 pm

To The Editor:

Ameren is on a public relations blitz boasting about tests it performed on groundwater somewhere in Labadie.

What Ameren is not telling the public, however, is far more important than what it is.

The Missourian posted Ameren’s test report on its website. The report states that tests performed on three wells drilled by Ameren showed results within federal and state drinking water standards. The report also indicates that although Ameren only tested the samples for eight pollutants, the lab had trouble with at least three of the pollutants.

The report only tells part of the story.

The report says nothing about how deep the wells were drilled. It offers no information about how the sampling was performed.

For mysterious reasons, the report indicates that at least some of the missing information was being separately prepared for Ameren. Most significant, the wells drilled were far from the leaking coal ash pond.

The biggest omission in Ameren’s public relations offensive is its convenient failure to test the areas of concern on its own property. The Labadie plant has a 154-acre, almost 40-year-old unlined ash pond that was leaking toxic coal ash at 50,000 gallons per day for about 20 years.

Only after a front-page story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch did Ameren take steps to try to stem those leaks. And those leaks were found because they were visible to the naked eye.

Most of the unlined ash pond, however, is below the surface. Only accurate groundwater monitoring around the pond will tell us whether, and if so how extensively, the pond is leaking below the surface.

In the 40 years that Ameren has been dumping coal ash into the unlined ash pond at Labadie, it has not conducted groundwater testing around that pond. At other Ameren facilities in Illinois, where groundwater monitoring is required by state law, significant groundwater contamination coming from its unlined ash ponds has been found.

All over the nation, unlined ash ponds have caused groundwater contamination. There is no reason to think that Labadie is immune from the laws of nature. There is every reason to believe that the Labadie plant site may well be contaminated.

If Ameren were genuinely concerned about the health and safety of its neighbors, it would conduct extensive, transparent groundwater testing of its plant site beginning with the area around the known leaking pond to determine whether the site is contaminated and, if so, where that contamination is heading.

Until Ameren comes clean with the condition of its own property, its neighbors cannot assume that their drinking water is safe.

/opinion

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