About 11 years ago, a small group of residents in Labadie learned that the power plant in their town owned massive pits of toxic waste known as coal ash ponds.
They discovered that the Labadie Energy Center — Ameren Missouri’s largest coal-fired power plant — has two basins packed with byproducts from coal combustion. The waste includes toxic, cancer-causing chemicals such as arsenic, mercury and lead.
For more than 50 years, utility companies have filled largely unlined coal ash ponds with harmful waste. But the state has never regulated them or required their owners to test groundwater nearby for contamination. A Washington University data analysis recently found high levels of groundwater contamination near the ponds.