June 14, 2011 8:43 am

Earthquakes, Impending Floods…and County Meetings


Flood Water Approaching Kansas City (ABC Affiliate)

Missouri Counties Prepare for Flooding (ABC Affiliate)

As the skies appear to open and drop even more rain on us today I prepare to head to Union for a series of meetings today, June 14th. All meetings are at the Franklin County Governement Center on Locust Street in Union. Map here.

10 AM:  County Commssion Meeting

1PM: County Informational Meeting on Impending Missouri River Flooding – public and in the County Govt Center

1:30 PM: Planning and Zoning Meeting of Subcommittee on Regulations (MODOT will be there)

It has been a whirlwind of activity and little time to blog and send out emails but, know things are happening and LEO is prepared to fight the improper siting of toxic coal ash dumps! Ameren continues to move forward despite the lack of decision on the County level…which is absolutely necessary for any state permits.  To be very clear…Ameren cannot build its proposed Labadie CCW landfill without a change in our county’s zoning code.  We hold all the power.  We meaning, us via our elected local officials.

So what has happened since the April Commission call back hearing? By the Commission, not much directly on the landfill zoning but lots related to it and behind the scenes. LEO attends weekly county meetings and has raised questions and concerns in front of The Missourian. Ameren has been in communication with the Corps of Engineers trying to get the 6 or so wetlands on site excluded from extra permitting requirements.  It looks like the Corps will require a 404 Wetlands Permit which kicks in all kinds of requirements and reporting. With the state (DNR) Ameren has been meeting and keeping their game face on in assuming they will get approval from the Franklin County Commission with a permit yet to be applied for under yet to be created zoning regulations.  Current Franklin County zoning law prohibits utility landfills in our county.  The County voted unanimously on May 31st to adopt the new FEMA maps showing the proposed Ameren landfill squarely in the “floodway” of the Missouri River.  Significant.  The floodway is where flood waters move the most swiftly and the channel of the river was likely to have been historically.  This is the worst place to build structures and certain house toxic waste indefinitely.  The county announced  June 7th (at a Tues a.m. meeting that virtually no one attends) that they would hold their first (potentially only) working meeting (deliberations) on on the proposed zoning changes that could allow utility landfills in the county.  Once they decide on the terms of the “Order” they will present, debate and vote on the Order at a Tues morning (10 .m.) County Commission Meeting.


DATE:  Wednesday JULY 6th, 2011

PLACE:  Franklin County Commission chambers, Government Center, 400 E. Locust, Union MO 63084. MAP here.

TIME:  9:30 a.m. (yes, early in the morning on a work day!)

PLEA:  Please make every effort to be there or send others. Public cannot comment but, we certainly can send a message.

So what can we expect at the Commission meetings and subsequently in a vote? We discussed the potential options months ago as we headed into the Commission meetings after 2 Planning and Zoning meetings.  Remember those meetings? Five (six if you count the defunct P&Z meeting that kicked off the series of meetings) public meetings starting with the first July 6th, 2010 and lasting until April 2011.  It is expected to have forgotten what transpired at those meetings and the options in front of the Commission given all the time that has past.  I even had to go back to check the dates and details!  Here is a recap of the last County Commission hearing in February 2011.  92 people testified in 2 County Commission hearings.  Major experts in landfilling, geology and planning testified that the site in Labadie and similar sites are not suitable for hazardous material storage nor consistent with Franklin County’s Master Plan (document driving zoning law).

So here we are coming down the home stretch of the local debate and what happens? Franklin County experienced a 4.2 magnitude earthquake  centered only 14 miles from Sullivan that sent waves as far as Jeff City, Sikeston and St. Louis. Despite it being a small quake it was felt because it was so close to the earth’s surface. It was a sobering reminder that quakes can happen and have happened in this region, especially with the New Madrid Fault so close.  This zone has produced 8.0 magnitude quakes which caused the Mississippi to flow backwards for a period of time and sand boils and new islands appeared in the river.  The timely event highlighted the two primary reasons to NOT site a toxic landfill in the Missouri River floodplain. Floodplain soils are prone to liquefaction (soils turn liquid and unstable) during seismic shaking and these same areas flood repeatidly.

So what are the chances that a toxic dump in the Missouri River floodplain would be threatened by an earthquake?  Well here is a quote from a FEMA document filed November 2008 :

The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency warned that a serious earthquake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone could result in “the highest economic losses due to a natural disaster in the United States,” further predicting “widespread and catastrophic” damage across Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, and particularly Tennessee, where a 7.7 magnitude quake or greater would cause damage to tens of thousands of structures affecting water distribution, transportation systems, and other vital infrastructure. The earthquake is expected to also result in many thousands of fatalities, with more than 4,000 of the fatalities expected in Memphis alone.

Floodplains and the zones surrounding rivers and streams are meant for holding and filtering our drinking water…not for toxic waste! Enter the second major factor looming in the horizon…Missouri River flooding. As I type, Kansas City is bracing w/ sandbags in place. Risk projections keep shifting but become more clear as the high water approaches.  Flooding levels are dependent on several factors: snow melt (temperatures), releases (policy) and additional volume (rainfall). It appears our area will need to brace for record flooding that could endanger our floodplains and towns on the Missouri River. Franklin County has already ordered 100,000 – 150,000 (depending on who you ask) sandbags.  Ironically, none dedicated to protecting the toxic impoundments in Labadie. In the flooding events we run the risk of the current impoundments failing and entering the river and with a new landfill we risk structural damage and leaching of toxins.  It was the unfortunate irreparable damage done by the historic TVA spill that has caused the nation to pause and reassess our management of coal ash waste.  Experience should show us that impounding and landfilling toxic material in floodplains is the worst place to do so.

So after a way to long post…I prepare to head to Union for a day of interesting meetings. Hope some of you will be there too. Follow the blog for a summary post and updates on new developments.  Better yet, volunteer to help us! LEO is now a membership organization and by volunteering you get a FREE upgrade in your membership level.  We are only as powerful as the commitment of our members.

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