Ameren would refuse to pay for some upgrades to St. Charles’ drinking water treatment plant under a cleanup proposal it has presented to the city as the legal clash over water contamination linked to the electric utility’s substation intensifies.
St. Charles has shut down six of its seven wells as a precaution after finding pollutants in the water in recent years. Some of the contamination is connected to the Findett Corp. chemical facility that ran from 1962 to 1973, but the EPA has recently identified the Ameren substation as the latest source of groundwater contamination.
St. Charles officials have said they want Ameren to pay to relocate the city’s wells and for installing new systems in the treatment plant.
Ameren says its cleanup plan would eliminate any need to upgrade the plant, and the Environmental Protection Agency has said the drinking water is safe, so “a carbon filtration system for the city’s drinking water treatment plant would serve no environmental or public health purpose, other than potentially to provide a level of protection for other contaminants that are unrelated to Ameren.”
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Ameren’s plan calls for installing “subsurface barriers” north of Highway 370 intended to provide additional protection for three of the city’s groundwater wells. It would also clean up, flush out, gradually bring back online and monitor wells connected to its contamination. The wells could be operating again by next January, if all goes to plan.
“Our shared goal is to continue protecting the drinking water supply,” Ameren said in a statement Wednesday. “The best way to do that is to work together.”
St. Charles officials have said that long-term measures to protect its water supply by getting the contamination levels as low as possible could cost $100 million.
They signaled Wednesday that the city is ramping up for an expanded legal fight on the issue by hiring new law firms “to aggressively represent the city’s interest in the non-superfund portion of this matter. The law firms will only be compensated for their work upon successful completion of this matter.”