April 15, 2011 8:09 pm

County & State Grapple with Ameren’s Terrible Landfill Site

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Ameren’s proposed coal ash landfill is on the front burner at both the County and the State level. Franklin County Commissioners have not yet decided how to handle the landfill zoning issue. And County zoning will need to be in place for Ameren to proceed with their proposed landfill. In fact, the Commissioners recently called back 10 individuals for more questioning.

In addition to the local zoning hurdle, Ameren’s proposed landfill site must also be judged suitable by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR). In February, Ameren submitted a Detailed Site Investigation Report (DSIR) to DNR.  LEO submitted a 23 page analysis of the DSIR, with expert input, that points out the many shortcomings in the Ameren DSIR.  Our analysis revealed that the DSI report fails to adequately describe conditions at the site – conditions that could lead to catastrophic failure. This vulnerable site is not environmentally sound and DNR should disapprove the Ameren plan.  What did the DNR decide?   Read on.

Here are just  some of the reasons why this site should be rejected:
1) Geo-Hydrology & drinking water wells:  contaminants could escape the proposed coal ash landfill and reach the drinking water wells of nearby residents due to the rapid flow of groundwater towards residential drinking water wells. These wells are hydrologically connected to the groundwater under the landfills site. Groundwater in this area can be just a foot or two below ground level and, at times, above ground level. The bottom of this proposed landfill will be sitting in groundwater separated by only two feet of clay topped by a plastic liner the thickness of 5 or 6 business cards.

2) Earthquakes & Karst Topography:  The landfill could collapse because it is in a seismic impact zone. DNR’s own Earthquake Hazards Map show that the soils below the landfill would act like liquids and could cause the landfill to collapse resulting in the failure of that thin landfill liner. Liquefaction is a common feature of earthquakes and the New Madrid fault is the second most active earthquake zone in the country. That same Hazard Map shows bedrock below the proposed landfill site as well as the adjacent bluffs are at risk of catastrophic collapse and landslide. Caves, springs, and karstic features further complicate the area.

3) Flooding: Based on the most recent FEMA map (2009), the proposed llandfill site is clearly in the  Missouri River floodway (a river that floods on average every 14 years). A floodway is the area where flood waters flow most swiftly and destructively. Federal guidelines require that floodways be kept “free of encroachment”.  AmerenMO used older FEMA maps (1984) in its DSIR and it never mentioned the Missouri Earthquake Hazard Map.

Here is a more complete summary of the key points contained in LEO’s analysis (http://www.leomo.info/2011-03-15_LEO_comments_DSI_key_pts.pdf)

Much of this factual information was given to Franklin County Commissioners by LEO during the series of public hearings regarding zoning changes that would allow utility waste landfills. We hope each Commissioner has taken the time to read all the documents provided at both hearings as well as the copy of LEO’s DSIR comments recently provided to them.  Protecting Franklin County’s human health and the environment should begin with strong County regulations…above and beyond what the State regs would provide.

The Missouri DNR (MoDNR) approved Ameren’s Detailed Site Investigation study the first week of April.  They provided no response to the 23 page analysis (http://www.leomo.info/2011-03-14_DSI_Comment_Letter.pdf)  provided by LEO.  That is not only disappointing, it is downright frightening considering Ameren’s flawed report was incomplete, inconsistent and misleading.

DNR will defend their decision by saying the site study (not the site itself) met the state regulations as written today…but are those state regulations truly protective?  Are they outdated?  Are they the minimum threshold requirements?  Should DNR respond to the many flaws pointed out in LEO’s analys. YES to all.  Having regulations in place and enforcing those regulations are often at odds.  Why has DNR done nothing about Ameren’s leaking coal ash pond they’ve known about since 1992?  Why has DNR not extended Ameren’s permit to pollute the Missouri River which expired in 1999?

Site study approval is just one of many steps necessary for Ameren to get their landfill permit.  There are other requirements including compliance with local zoning laws, statutory and regulatory requirements relating to the design plan of the landfill as well as environmental issues that must be taken into account.  So it ain’t over, folks.

That means there is more work to do and we will continue to ask for your help at each step of the way.

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