Ameren officials at the energy plant in Oakville want to build a new facility for coal waste on top of an existing one because its current storage is running out of room.
It’s a building process that could take almost five years, but started with an informational meeting, held Tuesday at . About 45 people attended.
Ameren’s Meramec Energy Center is located on Fine Road in Oakville, just south of Bee Tree Park and at the intersection of the Meramec and Mississippi rivers.
The plant opened in 1953 and since that time, has used pools to store the leftover ash from burning coal for energy. The pools are now to capacity and a new space for coal must be built, said Meramec Plant Manager Mark Litzinger.
The center receives 3 million tons of coal a year and 7 to 10 percent turns to ash.
Some of it is fly ash, as fine as baby powder. It either disintegrates into the air or is gathered and sold as a cement agent. Bottom ash, a thicker and heavier residue, needs to be stored, Litzinger said.
The center has been mixing this ash with water and storing it in pools on the 250-acre campus.
For the new storage, Ameren proposes mixing the ash with just enough water until it forms a solid and stacking it in a pyramid-like structure on the center's campus, Litzinger said. The 30-acre pyramid would stand about 100 feet high.
The dry waste facility would be the first in Missouri, but has been successful in Indiana and Illinois, Litzinger said. It would take about 15 years to fill the new space.
Representatives from the Missouri Coalition for the Environment think Ameren should focus on other energy sources rather than finding space for coal waste.
“It just speaks to Ameren’s commitment to double down on using coal as their primary energy source instead of looking at renewable energy sources,” said Ed Smith, the safe energy director for the coalition.
Patricia Schuba, with the Labadie Environmental Organization, said structurally, it was the worst plan to build a new storage facility on top of an old one—especially near two rivers that are water sources.
Litzinger said the storage area wouldn’t have an effect on the rivers or water supply. The closest neighbor to the center is .
Ameren will conduct extensive ground water tests and monitor the water while the facility is in existence, said Bob Meiners, a director at Ameren.
“We’ll also cover it with soil and plant grass; those are the main things we do to protect the environment,” Meiners said.
Officials considered an offsite disposal area and a commercial licensed landfill as alternatives, but discovered building over the existing site would be the best option, Meiners said.
Before building, the existing pool will be dried out and closed according to state and federal regulations.
The ash contains trace elements that could be detrimental to public health with high exposure. A fact sheet provided by Ameren said those elements were in one percent of the flyaway ash—less than what humans are exposed to everyday through rocks and soil.
The public meeting was just the first step in a process that could last five years. After a detailed site plan is created, Ameren will have another public meeting before applying for state and local permits—approximately a three to four year process. Construction will take another two years, Litzinger said.