Groundwater Pollution Threatens Drinking Water in Missouri

May 28, 2019

Ameren has used coal ash ponds in Missouri for decades

Ameren’s Labadie Energy Center in Missouri has dumped its coal ash in coal ash ponds since 1970. According to the U.S. EPA, coal ash includes a list of chemicals such as arsenic, boron and molybdenum. The ash can seep into groundwater that spread for miles through aquifers, according to the Missourian.

According to the Missourian, environmental non-profits recently reported 91% of coal-fired power plants have contaminated groundwater beneath them.

“These sites need to be cleaned up once and for all because nobody should have to live next to this,” said Patricia Schuba, president of the Labadie Environmental Organization. “And even if you don’t, what in 50 years of that material will be down in St. Louis? And then you know, you may be consuming it at a low dose over a whole lifetime.”

In 2008, the largest industrial spill in U.S. history occurred in Kingston, Tenn. More than 5 million cu yards of coal ash spilled into the Emory River, according to the Missourian, this was the first major coal ash spill in the U.S.

Some environmental groups including the Environmental Integrity Project, Earthjustice and the Sierra Club have collected data from 265 coal plants, 550 individual coal ponds or landfills, and 4,600 groundwater monitoring wells in the U.S. According to the Missourian, the report found groundwater at 52% of coal plants contain unsafe levels of arsenic, and groundwater at 69% of coal plants contain unsafe levels of lithium.

“It’s abundantly clear that coal ash is poisoning groundwater across the country, and it’s also clear that the industry could afford to stop doing it,” said Abel Russ, senior attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project and author of the report, to the Missourian.

“The Labadie Environmental Organization has been fighting Ameren’s coal ash storage for more than a decade,” according to the Missourian. A women’s book club meeting was the first forum for concerns over Ameren’s decision to build a coal ash landfill in the floodplain.

The group took Ameren to court, worrying that building a waste site in a floodplain could be “catastrophic.” Schuba found a pig head in her yard and spray paint on her car around the time herself and her group took a stand, according to the Missourian.

Both parties settled out of court after four years and LEO agreed to drop the lawsuit if Ameren agreed to its terms, according to the Missourian. Ameren build its landfill, however, it had to be built 5 ft above the ground, and also had to agree to only put coal ash from the Labadie plant into it.

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