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    St. Charles goes to court to bar Ameren from drilling new well near substation

    September 15, 2023 - Mark Schlinkmann, St. Louis Post-Dispatch


      Sep. 15—ST. CHARLES — City officials went to court Thursday to block Ameren from drilling an extraction well without getting advance city approval, warning that it could lead to further contamination of the wellfield supplying much of St. Charles' drinking water.

      St. Charles County Associate Circuit Judge Brittney Smith set a hearing on the issue for Sept. 25 and issued a temporary restraining order that will be in effect until then.

      In response, an Ameren spokesman accused the city of continuing "to misrepresent the facts" and to deliberately delay its ongoing remediation efforts.

      The move was the latest flashpoint in a year of squabbling between the city and the region's electric utility over groundwater contamination stemming from an Ameren substation in the wellfield.

      In its new court filing, the city said it learned only on Wednesday of Ameren's plan to install the well and complained that the company hadn't gotten permits from the city and the state.

      City officials also said the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which is overseeing Ameren's cleanup efforts in the wellfield, had taken issue with various aspects of Ameren's plan.

      "Given Ameren's historical contamination of the wellfield, allowing Ameren to again access the aquifer without approval from any oversight agency ... is likely to cause irreparable harm to the aquifer and the City Wellfield," the city said in its filing.

      An EPA spokesman said that agency doesn't comment on pending litigation.

      Ameren said the city had hampered remediation lately by turning on its well #4, which was shut down in 2005, and pumping the water into its sewer system.

      The city utilities supervisor, John Phillips, said the city began doing that a few weeks ago only to test whether recent remediation was removing contaminants from that area and that the EPA had agreed with the city's move. He said, however, there still are some contaminants in that water.

      Ameren has been doing groundwater cleanup in St. Charles for the past decade because of contamination from cleaning solvents used at its substation years earlier.

      In February, the EPA announced that the substation was the cause of additional contamination and told the utility to take additional steps. The EPA also has said the city's water remains safe and that the wellfield contamination hasn't exceeded allowable levels.

      In May, the city and St. Charles County filed a lawsuit seeking millions of dollars from Ameren in damages and to reimburse the city for its expenses in dealing with the contamination. Ameren has been trying to get the lawsuit transferred to the federal courts.



      (c)2023 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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