Though recent flooding caused significant damage in parts of Missouri, some residents are concerned about less noticeable effects — such as the risk posed to reserves of toxic coal ash at power plants along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.
Flood plains in parts of the state are strewn with more than just farmland and pockets of controversial commercial and residential development. They’re also home to major power generating stations, along with the disposal sites where coal ash — waste left over from burning coal — is kept.
With some areas increasingly vulnerable to floods, the prevailing method of coal ash disposal within flood plains is a growing concern for nearby residents and others.
Ameren Missouri’s coal-powered Labadie, Rush Island, Meramec and Sioux plants all dispose of coal ash on site in areas circled by berms or levees, often in dug-out ponds where the material is mixed with water, or as dry ash put into lined landfills.
The byproduct contains several hazardous contaminants, including arsenic, mercury, lead and hexavalent chromium. And there’s a lot of it, with almost 5 percent of coal — Ameren’s dominant fuel for electricity — consisting of non-combustible material.
Read more: St. Louis Post-Dispatch