Public Health
5:15 am
Wed September 4, 2013

St. Louis County Council Members Hear From Ameren On Concerns About Meramec Power Plant

Despite concerns raised by some members of the St. Louis County Council and local environmental groups, Ameren says its coal fired Meramec Power Plant does not pose a public health risk.

On Tuesday night, members of the St. Louis County Council heard a presentation from Ameren geared toward answering concerns about the environmental impact of the company’s power plant in Oakville.

A key issue is ground water testing near so-called coal ash ponds. Coal ash, a byproduct from coal power plants that contains heavy metals, is stored in ponds near the plant.

Some of the storage facilities are old and don’t have a protective lining.

The fact that there’s no groundwater testing near the storage facilities is a serious concern to John Hickey, who directs the Missouri chapter of the Sierra Club.  

“One thing we want is ground water monitoring before Ameren is allowed to expand their coal ash storage there by building a brand new landfill,” Hickey said.   

Vice President of Environmental Services for Ameren Corporation, Mike Menne, said the water is safe and if the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) requires testing, they will comply.

He denied an allegation that they’re attempting to stall that process.  

“To my knowledge we have not done any pushback with regards to the Missouri DNR,” Menne said.  “The DNR, as I understand it, is waiting for the new federal guidelines to come out to give them some guidance as to how to put the proper language in our permits that would require the conditions that we have to meet that would include ground water monitoring at that plant.”

State requirement or not, Councilman Steve Stenger said Ameren should start testing now.  

Stenger and St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley have written letters to the DNR expressing concerns about the health impact of the coal power plant.  In addition to coal ash ponds, both letters highlighted worries about the level of sulfur dioxide emissions from the plant.

Stenger said a lack of testing equipment in the county makes it hard to know if the plant poses a health risk or is in compliance with federal standards.    

“Primarily, I’m concerned that it appears that St. Louis County does not have any monitors within the county limits for (sulfur dioxide) which I think is really, really concerning,” Stenger said.

Menne said emissions from the plant are 80 percent below the allowable level set by the federal government.    

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