Plan to expand utility's coal ash landfill debated

Tuesday, June 10, 2014 | 3:53 p.m. CDT

SPRINGFIELD — Environmentalists are urging Springfield officials to reject a plan to expand the landfill where City Utilities of Springfield dumps its coal ash, but city officials say they have limited power over the utility company.

Members of the Sierra Club told the Springfield City Council on Monday that expanding the current coal ash landfill southwest of Springfield would allow some of the ash into the groundwater because the ground is so porous.

"The potential health implications should this landfill be allowed to be built are staggering," speaker Jennifer Conner said.

Conner acknowledged that the Sierra Club opposes coal but said it is asking in this case that City Utilities be required to find a stable place to store its ash, The Springfield News-Leader.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources previously rejected several landfill sites proposed by City Utilities. However, in the 2013 legislative session, lawmakers approved a bill that exempted City Utilities from doing preliminary site investigations, though the Natural Resources Department can reject any proposed sites.

Utility officials have said a detailed site investigation is just beginning and could take years.

Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Seifried told Sierra Club supporters in the crowd the city has limited authority in this case.

"As we all move through this as a community, I can guarantee you we're all concerned about balancing all of those issues. So I'll just leave it at that," Seifried said.

City Utilities' General Manager Scott Miller did not address the council but he noted to the News-Leader that the utility is also a water provider.

"In fact, I appreciate the whole group that was here tonight. They want good water quality; so do we. So to me, they're after the same thing we are," Miller said.

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