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Representatives with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and City Utilities addressed about 50 citizens Thursday evening on a proposed coal ash landfill in Springfield. The public awareness meeting was preceded earlier that day by press conferences highlighting possible environmental dangers of the site. KSMU’s Julie Greene has more.
Sierra Club members, along with other concerned citizens said the proposed location for the landfill in southwest Springfield is unsafe and could lead to contaminated drinking water. If passed, the landfill would be located by City Utilities’ John Twitty Energy Center on what opponents refer to as “porous karst formations” that are “extremely susceptible to leaking.”
Maddy Salzman is a Beyond Coal Campaign apprentice at the Sierra Club.
“The proposal for this coal ash landfill came to our attention because it’s already been rejected by DNR (Department of Natural Resources) six times, and it doesn’t make any sense for this to be moving forward still... People might go in with the best intention of not poisoning the groundwater, not having things break and fall apart, but we need this to actually work… I don’t think so far this is a situation that can be trusted and really this landfill should just be stopped,” Salzman said.
Thursday evening’s public awareness meeting was the first in a process that could last months before a possible permit is issued. The meeting did not provide details on this particular project, but rather what modern landfills are, and steps involved in the permitting process. Joel Alexander, CU’s communication manager, says one of the main reasons for wanting to build the landfill on the utilities’ property is cost efficiency.
“We feel we owe it to our customers, to the citizens of Springfield to take a look at the property we already own before we go investing millions of dollars in property and research on sites that we don’t own…Conservatively, we’re looking at $100-$125 million over the life of the landfill that we would save as opposed to taking it somewhere else,” Alexander said.
He adds that the cost benefits of the site are tremendous, noting that an alternative location would end up costing more to the community.
The Department of Natural Resources, which oversees the permitting process, cited concerns with the site’s topography last year after preliminary evaluations, and refused CU’s permit. An appeal was filed by the Springfield utility in April, but passage of a new Missouri law has since rendered the appeal void, allowing City Utilities to bypass the preliminary site requirement and move to a detailed site investigation.
City Utilities is looking to begin the detailed investigation within the next six months, which, if a permit is approved for the landfill, would then take an estimated 2-3 years to construct. The life expectancy of the site would be 25-30 years.
Alexander notes that CU is “not going to invest in something that’s going to jeopardize the environment.”
“We live here. We want to be good neighbors. We are going to be good neighbors, and we want to do the right thing for our community, not just for now, not five years from now, but well into the future,” Alexander said.
Should the permit process continue, there will be two more opportunities for public interaction before a final decision is made.
For KSMU News, I’m Julie Greene.