ST. CHARLES, Mo. (KMOV) – The City of St. Charles is closing its largest water well in the Elm Point wellfield due to contamination detections.
At present, approximately 70,000 residents could be affected by the closure. City officials, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Ameren Missouri said the water was still safe to drink. However, going forward, city leaders said they are working to protect taxpayers’ money and ensure responsible parties pay.
“I’m so glad the city is doing the right thing and taking the initiative to make sure these chemicals don’t reach our water plant,” Kristin Heideman said.
Heideman is a resident of St. Charles City. She attended the November 17 meeting where the EPA presented data to the city and its residents. At this meeting, the EPA affirmed that the water was safe to drink and that there was no further contamination. However, on Friday, St. Charles Public Works closed its largest water well.
“We think we can’t wait any longer to monitor and test the data,” said public works director Nick Galla.
Galla said last week that his team had detected abnormal levels of two toxic and carcinogenic chemicals, causing them to close five of the seven wells.
“Our treatment plant was not designed to eliminate this level of contamination. It can naturally eliminate small amounts by the natural process we follow. We don’t want to keep pumping that well, drawing in more contaminants to where that’s the point where the treatment process will enter our watering system,” Galla explained.
Currently, the treatment plant is operating at around 25% of its capacity. Galla said they pull millions of gallons of water daily from the city of St. Louis to make up for their water loss. Eventually, he said the cost would fall to taxpayers.
“Right now we are drawing from our reserves and there are only so many reserves we have to put in for this. We believe this should not be the burden of our taxpayers,” Galla added.
Galla said he believes the responsibility for the payment lies with Ameren Missouri, which the city says is responsible for groundwater contamination near the wells.
On Monday evening, Ameren Missouri sent the following statement to News 4:
The City of St. Charles and the United States Environmental Protection Agency have emphasized that drinking water in St. Charles is safe. Ameren Missouri is committed to the safety of the St. Charles community and remains strongly in support of additional EPA-directed testing at the Elm Point wellfield. As the EPA repeatedly mentioned in a public meeting on Nov. 17, the source of the groundwater contamination is unknown. The source of contamination must first be determined before pursuing a cure, and the good news is that the EPA says it intends to have this source tested soon. As the EPA said at its public meeting, Ameren Missouri has voluntarily worked for more than a decade to clean up contamination from the Huster substation site and years of monitoring data show that the cleanup work have been successful.
– Craig Giesmann, Director of Environmental Services, Ameren Missouri
“The EPA at our town hall meeting told us that they complained about all the great things Ameren was doing, and they are doing the right thing. In my opinion, if they do the right thing, they would supplement our water so that we don’t do this as taxpayers,” Heideman explained.
City of St. Charles leaders gave no estimate of when this might impact residents. However, they said if they had to replace all their wells and relocate them, it could cost them $40 million.
“We are stepping forward and taking the precautions we feel are necessary to keep everyone safe, despite what other agencies are doing,” Galla said.
We contacted the EPA Monday evening for comment on the well closure, but did not hear back. The EPA’s comment period on the consent decree with Ameren Missouri has been extended until March 6, 2023.
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