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St. Charles files Ameren lawsuit months after initial announcement, seeks damages over contamination

The lawsuit is seeking damages due to the contamination, which includes damage done to the city's reputation.

ST CHARLES, Mo. — The City of St. Charles is filing its lawsuit Wednesday against Ameren Missouri over wellfield contamination, months after announcing its intention to sue.

In a press conference Wednesday, St. Charles Mayor Dan Borgmeyer said they are seeking millions of dollars from the utility company over contamination at the city's Elm Point Wellfield, but did not say exactly how much they were seeking. He said the lawsuit will be dropped off at circuit court Wednesday afternoon.

The city is working with local law firms Dowd Bennett LLP and Blitz, Bardgett, & Deutsch, L.C. to sue Ameren Missouri. Former Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, who is a partner at Dowd Bennett, joined Borgmeyer at Wednesday's press conference.

"Unfortunately, efforts to work with Ameren to resolve the contamination issues, implement a long-term viable solution, and have Ameren take financial responsibility for their negligence, has not resulted in an acceptable outcome," Borgmeyer said Wednesday.

St. Charles County has joined the lawsuit, and County Executive Steve Ehlmann also spoke at the press conference as well.

Nixon said the lawsuit is seeking damages due to the contamination, which includes damage done to the city's reputation.

“What we’d like to get is justice for folks, and I’m confident we’ll be able to do that," Nixon said.

In February, the City of St. Charles announced the closure of City Well No. 7, meaning the city had shut down six of its seven wells due to traces of 1,2-dichloroethene and vinyl chloride.

To combat a drinking water shortage, the city has been purchasing millions of gallons of water daily from the City of St. Louis instead of producing its own at a lower cost.

Environmental Protection Agency test results revealed an Ameren substation was the source of the water contamination and said the electric company would be required to clean it up.

5 On Your Side asked, what's next for the cleanup of the well field and the access agreement between Ameren and the city.

“We’ve never denied access as a city, so we are still giving the access to the site they need for them to do the monitoring and remediation for their site," Public Works Director Nick Galla said. “The cleanup is related to Ameren, so it’s up to Ameren to clean up the wellfield as quickly as possible.” 

Craig Giesmann, the director of environmental services for Ameren Missouri, said Ameren had not reviewed the lawsuit, but said the company has been working with the city to help fix the issue.

"Ameren Missouri has consistently focused on the continued safety of the drinking water in the City of St. Charles," Giesmann said in a statement. "We have tried to work collaboratively with the City."

Nixon said the goal of the lawsuit was to make sure Ameren Missouri pays for the cleanup of the contamination and make sure that cost is not passed on to St. Charles residents. They also want to get Ameren to pay the city back for the additional costs it has incurred by buying drinking water to supplement its own supply.

He said the lawsuit is seeking a remedy to the issue through state court. The lawsuit will not interfere with the access agreement the city and Ameren came to earlier this year, which he said was part of the federal government's response. 

Under that agreement, the EPA said Ameren must perform cleanup pilot studies to reduce contaminants, look into different courses of action to keep the contamination from happening and work with St. Charles to address the city's water supply needs while the fixes are being developed and implemented.

The full statement from Giesmann is as follows:

"Ameren Missouri has consistently focused on the continued safety of the drinking water in the City of St. Charles. We have tried to work collaboratively with the City.

"Multiple agencies including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Missouri Department of Natural Resources have repeatedly confirmed that drinking water in St. Charles has been and remains safe.

"EPA-approved and supervised measures at the Huster substation to contain and remove remnants of cleaning solvents used decades ago continue. We are making good progress on groundwater treatment and are providing regular progress report updates to EPA.

"More details about these treatments are available at AmerenMissouri.com/StCharles.

"We have yet to review the lawsuit."

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