May 3, 2023
Toxic Coal Ash in Missouri: Addressing Coal Plants’ Hazardous Legacy
For decades, utilities disposed of coal ash — the hazardous substance left after burning coal for energy — by dumping it in unlined ponds and landfills. Missouri has 60 coal ash dumpsites.
Missouri is one of the nation’s top coal ash-generating states, ranking fourth in ash production in 2020.
Coal ash contains hazardous pollutants including arsenic, boron, cobalt, chromium, lead, lithium, mercury, molybdenum, radium, selenium, and other heavy metals, which have been linked to cancer, heart and thyroid disease, reproductive failure, and neurological harm.
Industry’s own data indicate that across the country 91% of coal plants are currently polluting groundwater above federal health standards with toxic pollutants.
Coal ash remains one of our nation’s largest toxic industrial waste streams. U.S. coal plants continue to produce approximately 70 million tons every year.
Despite EPA’s 2015 Coal Ash Rule, which created the first-ever safeguards for coal ash disposal, many coal ash dumps remain unregulated due to sweeping exemptions for legacy coal ash ponds and inactive landfills.
The exempted coal ash dumps are sited disproportionately in low-income communities and communities of color. The EPA issued a proposed rule to address most of these exemptions on May 17, 2023.
The magnitude of harm from recklessly dumped toxic coal ash requires decisive action from federal and state regulators.
- Utilities must be required to comply with the law and immediately clean up their pollution.
- EPA and states must make enforcement a priority and act quickly to ensure that utilities leave communities with sites that benefit rather than harm their health, environment, and economic status.
- EPA must swiftly strengthen the Coal Ash Rule to address the many legacy ponds and inactive landfills that are unregulated, and to prohibit coal ash used as fill unless protective measures are put in place, to ensure all Missouri communities are protected from coal ash pollution.
43 Regulated Coal Ash Disposal Sites in Missouri
Missouri utilities operate 43 federally regulated coal ash ponds and landfills at 16 plants that contain more than 73.4 million cubic yards of toxic waste.
Coal ash has caused significant groundwater contamination at all of the state’s regulated dumpsites.
Missouri utilities, however, have failed to restore water resources despite the legal requirement to do so.
|Ashbury||Ashbury||Empire District Electric Co||1 unlined pond||Boron (x26), Cobalt (x2), Lithium (x8), Sulfate (x4)|
|Blue Valley||Independence||City of Independence||3 unlined ponds||Not evaluated|
|Columbia Muni||Columbia||City of Columbia||1 unlined pond||Boron (x1), Sulfate (x1), Thallium (x2)|
|Iatan||Weston||Evergy||1 unlined pond, 1 landfill||Arsenic (x2), Boron (x1), Cadmium (x2), Lithium (x1), Molybdenum (x2)|
|James River||Springfield||City Utilities of Springfield||2 unlined ponds, 1 landfill||No contaminants exceeding|
|John Twitty||Springfield||City Utilities of Springfield||2 unlined ponds, 1 landfill||Antimony (x1)|
|Labadie||Labadie||Ameren||2 unlined ponds, 1 landfill||Arsenic (x4), Boron (x8), Lithium (x1), Molybdenum (x14)|
|Meramec||St. Louis||Ameren||5 unlined ponds||Arsenic (x2), Boron (x13), Lithium (x4), Molybdenum (x11), Sulfate (x2)|
|Missouri City||Missouri City||City of Independence||1 unlined pond||Molybdenum*|
|Montrose||Clinton||Evergy||2 unlined ponds, 1 landfill||Arsenic (x1), Boron (x4), Cobalt (x18), Thallium (x1)|
|New Madrid||New Madrid||Associated Electric Coop||3 unlined ponds, 1 landfill||Arsenic (x2), Boron (x10), Cobalt (x1), Lead (x1), Molybdenum (x76)|
|Rush Island||Festus||Ameren||1 unlined pond||Arsenic (x29), Boron (x8), Molybdenum (x20)|
|Sibley||Sibley||Evergy||2 unlined ponds, 1 landfill||Arsenic (x20), Boron (x3), Molybdenum (x30)|
|Sikeston||Sikeston||Sikeston Bd of Municipal Utilities||2 unlined ponds||Boron (x2), Molybdenum (x14)|
|Sioux||West Alton||Ameren||2 unlined ponds, 1 lined pond, 1 landfill||Boron (x15), Cobalt (x2), Lithium (x1), Molybdenum (x162), Sulfate (x2)|
|Thomas Hill||Clifton Hill||Associated Electric Coop||4 unlined ponds||Sulfate (x5)|
* Based on historical industry monitoring data. See Ashtracker.
All data on groundwater contamination from coal ash derived from the utilities’ publicly accessible CCR Compliance Data and Information websites, and exceedances were calculated by Environmental Integrity Project.
For more information on regulated coal ash sites in Missouri and throughout the U.S., see Mapping the Coal Ash Contamination.
17 Unregulated Coal Ash Legacy Ponds and Inactive Landfills in Missouri (ash dumps exempted from the 2015 Coal Ash Rule)
In addition, Missouri hosts at least 17 unregulated inactive coal ash landfills and legacy ponds that escape federal regulation. The exact number remains unknown because utilities are not required to report these sites.
These dumps are almost certainly contaminating water and threatening health and the environment; however, monitoring data are not currently available for most unregulated sites.
As we anticipate EPA’s proposed rule on legacy ponds and unregulated landfills in May 2023, a concern remains that the agency will not address coal ash that was dumped off site or used as fill.
|Chamois||Chamois||Central Elec Power Coop||5||0||Unknown – no data|
|Hawthorn||Kansas City||Kansas City Power & Light||2||1||Unknown – no data|
|John Twitty||Springfield||City Utilities of Springfield||0||1||Yes – industry data|
|Lake Road||St. Joseph||KCP&L Greater MO||2||1||Unknown – no data|
|Montrose||Clinton||Evergy||0||1||Yes – industry data|
|Rush Island||Festus||Ameren||0||1||Yes – industry data|
|Sibley||Sibley||Evergy||0||1||Yes – industry data|
|Sioux||West Alton||Ameren||0||1||Yes – industry data|
|Thomas Hill||Clifton Hill||Associated Electric Coop||0||1||Yes – industry data|
These data were developed by using EPA datasets relied upon in their 2007 and 2014 CCR risk assessments (Human and Ecological Risk Assessment of Coal Combustion Residuals) and comparing those datasets to the universe of regulated units.
“EPA damage case” denotes a site where US EPA has found documented groundwater contamination from coal ash.
For More Information
Christine Santillana, Legislative Counsel, Earthjustice, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lisa Evans, Senior Counsel, Earthjustice, email@example.com.
More on Coal Ash in Missouri
- Poisonous Coverup: The Widespread Failure of the Power Industry to Clean Up Coal Ash Dumps (November 3, 2022)
- When Lobbying is a Good Thing (August 19, 2014)
- Missouri Communities Pay a High Price for Lack of Toxic Coal Waste Regulation (December 17, 2013)
- Tr-Ash Talk: Is There Something In Missouri's Water? (January 15, 2013)
- Tr-Ash Talk: Arsenic, Mercury and Lead Non-Hazardous? (September 7, 2011)
Coal Ash in States, Territories, Regions
Earthjustice fights in the courts for a long-term solution to the toxic menace of coal ash. And we act on behalf of dozens of clients and over 100 coalition partners to defeat legislative attempts to subvert federally enforceable safeguards of coal ash.
Earthjustice’s Clean Energy Program uses the power of the law and the strength of partnership to accelerate the transition to 100% clean energy.