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Ameren responsible for contamination in St. Charles wellfield, EPA testing finds
Ameren responsible for contamination in St. Charles wellfield, EPA testing finds
Ameren responsible for contamination in St. Charles wellfield, EPA testing finds

Published on: 02/10/2023


ST CHARLES, Mo. — The Environmental Protection Agency identified an Ameren substation as the source of the contamination that has led the city of St. Charles to close multiple water wells.

In a press release, the EPA said the results mean Ameren will be required to to address the contamination originating from the Huster Road Substation.

“The Superfund program operates under the ‘polluter pays’ principle,” EPA Region 7 Superfund and Emergency Management Division Director Bob Jurgens said in the press release.

Ameren Missouri issued a statement Thursday, agreeing the site would be cleared of "cleaning solvents used decades ago." The statement said techniques are in use to remove chemicals and completion was scheduled for March. Ameren Missouri expected the concentration levels to be reduced by early summer.

"Are you pleased with that plan?” 5 On Your Side asked St. Charles Mayor Dan Borgmeyer. 

“We'll see. We think that plan is inaccurate. We don't think it goes deep enough,” he responded. "We're doing our own monitoring. We're putting in 26 monitoring wells all throughout our wellfield so we can constantly keep track of what's going on in our wellfields. They're doing spot checks and stuff like that." 

He wants Ameren to build a new wellfield altogether and foot the bill.

"I don't think our people should pay for that. They didn't do it,” Borgmeyer added.

The Elm Point Wellfield provides water for some 30,000 families in St. Charles. 

"No one wants to live in a place where their water is toxic," resident Diane Seider said.

When it comes to the best approach, she sides with the Mayor.

"Instead of spending money cleaning up, let's spend the money to drill new wellfields…They've been cleaning this site up for I don't know how many years and obviously it's still toxic so why continue down that path. It just seems to be prolonging the issue,” she said.

The Huster Road Substation is at the Findett Corp. Superfund Site, and it is an active electrical distribution and transmission substation. A Superfund site is a polluted location in the United States that requires long-term cleanup and response to hazardous material contamination.

The EPA said Between 2014 and 2018, Ameren conducted several pilot studies to address contamination at the facility. These pilot studies resulted in contamination remaining confined to the boundaries of the substation.

This all comes after the city shut down five of its seven wells due to traces of 1, 2-dichloroethylene and vinyl chloride found in the Elm Point Wellfield. To combat this drinking water shortage, the city has been purchasing millions of gallons of water daily from the City of St. Louis. And earlier this week, the city took its case to court to try to force the EPA to require Ameren to pay for the contamination cleanup.

The EPA used a testing method called direct push technology. EPA Project Manager Clint Sperry said this pushed a Geoprobe, a manufactured drilling machine, into the ground to take samples of groundwater at several different increments underground.

The press release said the results have been shared with the city.

They will present information on the sampling effort and results at the upcoming Community Meeting scheduled for Feb. 23 at the St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Parish gym. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. with an availability session, followed by a presentation at 7 p.m. Following the presentation, Agency officials will facilitate a question-and-answer session until 8:30 p.m.

The statement from Ameren Missouri reads as follows:

Ameren Missouri implementing EPA-approved treatment techniques at its Huster Substation

Cleanup efforts will continue until groundwater beneath the substation achieves the strict standards established by the EPA

St. Louis (Feb. 9, 2023) – Ameren Missouri has started implementing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved measures to contain and remove remnants of cleaning solvents used decades ago at a substation in the City of St. Charles. Treatment techniques targeting chemicals directly underneath the substation site are now underway, with completion set for the end of March, followed by a monitoring period. All work is being performed under the supervision of the EPA. Based on prior experience, a reduction in concentration levels is expected by early summer.

"Ameren Missouri remains committed to the safety of St. Charles residents. The drinking water in St. Charles remains safe. We are also committed to working cooperatively with the EPA to address groundwater impacts at and near the Huster substation," said Craig Giesmann, director of environmental services at Ameren Missouri.

 Ameren Missouri's plan is informed by independent experts, including Dr. Ray Ferrara, a nationally recognized authority on water issues with more than 40 years of experience.

"Very similar methods have worked in locations across the country," Ferrara said. "It is also a timely and practical step to take."

"The EPA has repeatedly stated that our comprehensive plan is appropriate to protect the local water supply," Giesmann said.

This work is part of Ameren Missouri's ongoing cleanup efforts to successfully identify and implement technologies to reduce Huster substation on-site and potential off-site impacts.

In addition to injecting materials to destroy residual solvents, Ameren Missouri is installing subsurface barriers at strategic locations for added protection. The barriers create a chemical reaction that captures remaining suspended residuals in the groundwater before it passes out of the substation property. In addition, utilizing a series of extraction wells, an above-ground groundwater capture system permitted by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources also contains and treats on-site groundwater. Cleanup efforts will continue until groundwater beneath the substation achieves the strict standards established by the EPA. The barrier installation and treatment applications are expected to begin to work immediately and to be completed by the end of March. Monitoring will measure effectiveness.

Ameren Missouri continues to cooperate with the EPA on these additional treatment steps. These treatment techniques may also be utilized at other offsite locations.

Ameren Missouri has been providing electric and gas service for more than 100 years, and the company's electric rates are about 25% below the Midwest and national averages. Ameren Missouri's mission is to power the quality of life for its 1.2 million electric and 135,000 natural gas customers in central and eastern Missouri. The company's service area covers 64 counties and more than 500 communities, including the greater St. Louis area. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter at @AmerenMissouri or

Author :Sam Clancy, Brent Solomon

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