Ameren proposes landfill near Rogers Elementary

Detailed investigation of site to be completed by fall 2013

By Kari Williams

A utility waste landfill could be built on top of a current landfill in south county by 2017 — a short distance from Rogers Elementary School.

The landfill is proposed at Ameren Missouri’s Meramec Energy Center, 8200 Fine Road, roughly 3.6 miles southeast of Interstate 55 and Route 141.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources hosted an information session Aug. 14 at Rogers Elementary for the public.

Bob Meiners, Ameren’s director for power operation services, said the landfill would be used to store coal combustion products, such as fly ash and bottom ash.

“The current storage facility we have is almost full. So we need to build a new facility,” he said.

Ameren explored several options for future storage, according to Meiners, including off-site locations.

“There’s problems that are created by (building the facility off-site),” Meiners said. “Namely, that you have to haul the ash. You (have to) truck the ash, and that’s very invasive to the neighborhood and the residents. Not to mention that it adds a lot of cost to the disposal of the ash.”

The proposed on-site method eliminates hauling ash and is “much more cost-effective” and, according to Meiners, it has been determined elimination can be done safely.

“We’ll protect the environment with the technology that we’re going to use,” he said.

Ed Smith, Missouri Coalition for the Environment safe energy director, told the Call the coalition has a “particular interest” in obtaining public comment on “Ameren’s proposal to double down on their continued use of coal.”

“It’s semi-disconcerting that they want to build this on top of an existing landfill that, once this new landfill goes in, they won’t be able to physically monitor,” Smith said.

Meiners said with the method Ameren will use to build the landfill, it does not foresee an impact on the surrounding community.

“We’re going to have groundwater monitoring wells all around the perimeter just to make sure there’s no leakage from this facility,” Meiners said.

However, using water-quality monitors in and around the landfill, according to Smith, does not protect the landfill from rising water or groundwater levels from floods.

Smith also said the money that will be spent on a new coal-ash facility could go toward putting scrubbers on the Meramec coal plant, “one of Ameren’s oldest, most polluting coal plants in their fleet.”

“Instead of putting scrubbers on there to decrease the pollution that’s coming out into the air that people are breathing in south St. Louis, they’re just planning to build a new pit and dump more coal ash in there instead of updating their facility and modernizing it and using technology to reduce air pollution,” Smith said.

South county resident Pat Patterson, a member of the Sierra Club and the Natural Resource Defense Council, said she is opposed to the landfill.

“There is common ground in this country,” she said. “It’s the ground we walk on, the water we drink and the air we breath, and it’s up to all of us to protect it.”

The detailed site investigation, which is just beginning, will take one year, Meiners said, and should be completed by fall 2013.

Next, the project will be in a data-gathering mode to “characterize the groundwater flow patterns and to do geostructural analysis” to ensure the safety of the site.

“We expect by 2015 to be, if we’ve got approvals at that point, to be going for a construction permit,” Meiners said. “(We’ll) request approval on that and then construction would start later 2015, finish in 2016 and we would put the facility in service in 2017.”

Renee Bungart, Missouri Department of Natural Resources communications director, said Ameren has not yet submitted a proposed utility waste landfill application.

The DNR’s division of geology and land survey reviews a preliminary site investigation to determine if there are potential concerns with the site, she said. Ameren’s preliminary site investigation was approved, thus giving Ameren approval to complete a detailed site investigation. Once that is completed, Bungart said the plan is submitted back to the division of geology and land survey, where it is reviewed again.

“Then our staff would review that detailed investigation,” she said. “If they have additional questions they can go back to Ameren …”

Once the detailed investigation is approved, Ameren can then file a construction permit application.