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Agency says

Safety problems at Taum Sauk weren’t reported to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Thursday, October 5, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:53 a.m. CST, Wednesday, February 18, 2009

ST. LOUIS — Ameren Corp.’s new dam safety chief was one of several managers who failed to tell federal regulators about critical problems at the Taum Sauk reservoir for months before the dam collapsed, documents show.

In October 2005, Tom Hollenkamp and at least nine other Ameren employees were warned about broken safety equipment at Taum Sauk in southeast Missouri. The company did not comply with federal rules and report the problems to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, according to the agency.

Ameren created Hollenkamp’s position as part of the largest civil settlement ever reached with FERC, which regulated Taum Sauk. The settlement includes a $15 million fine.

As Ameren’s new chief dam safety engineer, Hollenkamp will be the point man for reporting any safety problems at Ameren’s hydroelectric plants to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Hollenkamp will lead a team of 12 engineers who will inspect Ameren’s hydroelectric plants and update the company’s safety training procedures, company spokesman Tim Fox said.

Hollenkamp will have the authority to shut down any Ameren hydroelectric plant if there is a safety concern.

It’s unclear if FERC approved Hollenkamp’s appointment. The agency did not respond to several messages seeking comment.

If Ameren had heeded its own internal warnings about Taum Sauk, the reservoir would not have overflowed and breached Dec. 14, 2005, FERC Chairman Joseph Kelliher said Monday.

The resulting flood injured a family of five and destroyed much of the Johnson’s Shut-ins State Park.

Hollenkamp’s new position addresses concerns raised in Ameren’s own Taum Sauk investigation conducted by independent engineer Paul C. Rizzo.

E-mails suggest that Taum Sauk Superintendent Richard Cooper and others considered economic concerns when it came to shutting down the hydroelectric plant.

Fox said Hollenkamp will be free from operational concerns at the hydroelectric plants.

 


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