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Department of Natural Resources approves Ameren coal ash landfill in eastern Missouri

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LABADIE, Missouri — A proposed coal ash landfill in eastern Missouri has moved closer to construction despite the objections of environmentalists.

Missouri Department of Natural Resources granted a crucial construction permit Friday for the 167-acre landfill, which would serve Ameren Missouri's Labadie power plant, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/1AnLpkJ) reports.

Labadie residents and other project opponents say the landfill in the Missouri River flood plain could contaminate the local drinking water supply. Ameren says the landfill will have a protective liner and extensive pollution monitoring equipment. The company argued that building it elsewhere would cost ratepayers about $2.5 million more a year than storing it nearby and clog area roads with hundreds of daily truckloads of ash.

In an apparent nod to state activists, the DNR permit will require Ameren to comply with new federal rules governing coal ash, which have yet to take effect. One condition that DNR added to the permit requires the utility to construct its landfill at least 5 feet above the nearest groundwater aquifer.

"I have to say, I was a little surprised that this was in there," said Patricia Schuba, president of the Labadie Environmental Organization. "I actually think this might be a mini-win for the community, even though we asked (DNR) to deny it."

She also noted the new permit requires groundwater monitoring near the landfill, something required in EPA's new rules but not typically by Missouri regulators.

The Labadie Environmental Organization still has appeals of Franklin County zoning approvals pending in front of the Missouri Supreme Court and in Franklin County Circuit Court. It may still challenge DNR's decision, and Schuba would say only that her group is keeping its options open.

"Overall this alleviates some of the concern," Schuba said. "I think what's key is how it's implemented and how we determine the height of the water on the site. You have to appreciate that we really, really do believe that this location is the problem."

It wasn't immediately clear if the permit means Ameren will move forward soon on the project. In a statement, Ameren said the DNR decision affirms the landfill is "an environmentally sound solution in the public's best interest" and called it "good news for a critical regional asset our customers depend upon."


Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com

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