A small but vocal group of protesters gathered outside Ameren Missouri's headquarters in St. Louis today to voice their opposition to the company's plans to build several new coal ash landfills.
Residents living near Ameren's Labadie, Meramec, and Rush Island power plants called on the state to require groundwater testing at all of Ameren's current coal ash disposal sites before allowing the company to build new ones. They also gave Ameren a petition with more than a thousand signatures demanding groundwater monitoring.
Life-long Labadie resident Patricia Schuba said she and others have spent four years trying to get Ameren to be what she called "a responsible corporate neighbor."
"We're putting toxic coal ash with arsenic, lead, mercury in it, in our floodplains, right next to our drinking water, next to our children, next to our families,” Schuba said. “And that doesn't need to happen. This is an irresponsible choice."
Ameren spokesperson Rita Holmes-Bobo called it "unfortunate" that people are willing to spread what she termed "misinformation."
"The fact of the matter is that the production of energy using coal is a very safe process, and we would not do anything to harm our customers or the public," Holmes-Bobo said.
But she said the company would defer to state authorities as to whether additional groundwater testing is needed.
Ameren recently announced plans to close 16 coal ash ponds in Illinois after receiving violation notices for groundwater contamination at three of its power plants in that state.
Follow Véronique LaCapra on Twitter: @KWMUScience