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EPA Holds Public Hearing Over Coal Ash Contamination In Jefferson County

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The Environmental Protection Agency is holding a public hearing Thursday evening about a proposed agreement to address water pollution from the illegal disposal of coal ash from Ameren’s Rush Island Power Plant.

According to the EPA, approximately 140,000 tons of ash containing heavy metals and other toxic substances contaminated Jefferson County wetlands, an unnamed tributary to Plattin Creek and a portion of Willers Lake.

Former Festus City Councilman Gregg Aubuchon spoke at a press conference held by environmental groups ahead of the hearing.

"Missouri polluters cannot dump ash into our waters unchecked," Aubuchon said. "The EPA and DNR must take steps to protect our health and quality of our water. Your household garbage is managed much more consistently than coal combustion waste."

EPA spokesperson Chris Whitley says under the terms of the agreement, the company that owns the land ― Rotary Drilling Supply, Inc. ― would put a cap over the coal ash, but do nothing to protect ground water.

“I don’t believe there’s anything in the settlement agreement that addresses lining the coal ash piles," Whitley said. "But there is capping, which would certainly prevent rainwater, or other forms of precipitation or runoff from affecting it.”

Whitley says it's too soon to say when remediation work will begin.

The EPA comment period for the proposed settlement agreement closed at the end of June, so Thursday's meeting is the last opportunity for the public to provide input.

The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the Crystal City Council Chambers, 130 Mississippi Ave., Crystal City, Mo.

View Rotary Drilling Supply Inc in a larger map

Follow Véronique LaCapra on Twitter@KWMUScience

Follow Sarah Skiöld-Hanlin on Twitter@Skihan

Copyright 2013 St. Louis Public Radio

Science reporter Véronique LaCapra first caught the radio bug writing commentaries for NPR affiliate WAMU in Washington, D.C. After producing her first audio documentaries at the Duke Center for Documentary Studies in N.C., she was hooked! She has done ecological research in the Brazilian Pantanal; regulated pesticides for the Environmental Protection Agency in Arlington, Va.; been a freelance writer and volunteer in South Africa; and contributed radio features to the Voice of America in Washington, D.C. She earned a Ph.D. in ecosystem ecology from the University of California in Santa Barbara, and a B.A. in environmental policy and biology from Cornell. LaCapra grew up in Cambridge, Mass., and in her mother’s home town of Auxerre, France. LeCapra reported for St. Louis Public Radio from 2010 to 2016.
Sarah Skiöld-Hanlin
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