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Sierra Club: Ameren’s Labadie power plant permit violates water quality laws

Ameren Missouri's Labadie Energy Center next to the Missouri River
Labadie Environmental Organization

The Sierra Club says Ameren's Labadie power plant in Franklin County does not meet state and federal water quality standards and wants it brought into compliance.

On Friday, the environmental group filed an appeal with the state, alleging the plant’s operating permit does not do enough to protect wildlife or groundwater.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources approved a new operating permit for the Labadie power plant in late July, and it went into effect on Aug. 1. But in its appeal, the Sierra Club said the permit violates the federal Clean Water Act with respect to hot water discharge, putting wildlife in the Missouri River at risk — including an endangered fish, the pallid sturgeon.

The group also alleges that Ameren's Labadie permit does not meet state requirements to test groundwater near the plant for contamination.

Although an earlier draft of the permit would have required Ameren to provide groundwater monitoring results to state regulators four times a year, the final version only says monitoring needs to happen — not how often it should be done. It also gives Ameren until April 2018 to submit groundwater data; the Sierra Club wants those results six months sooner, by October 2017.

John Hickey, who directs the Missouri Sierra Club, said people living near the Labadie plant depend on groundwater to drink. "They have been drinking well water for years and years without having the peace of mind of knowing, is that groundwater contaminated because of the toxic coal ash ponds,” Hickey said. “Those people should have the right to know. And there’s no reason to delay Ameren’s responsibility to monitor the pollution that it is creating.” One of the plant's two coal ash ponds is unlined and known to be leaking.

The Missouri attorney general's office said it is reviewing the appeal for state Department of Natural Resources. It will be up to Missouri’s Administrative Hearing Commission and Clean Water Commission to decide its merits.

In a written statement, Ameren Missouri’s senior director of environmental policy and analysis, Steve Whitworth, said the company had not been named in the appeal but would review it. “The permit issued by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources complies with applicable requirements and Missouri regulations,” Whitworth added.

For science, environment and health news, follow Véronique LaCapra on Twitter: @KWMUScience

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