Breaking News
More () »

St. Charles conducting independent investigation into well water contamination

In response to the EPA's "limited investigation" into the contamination, the City of St. Charles has decided to launch an investigation of its own.

ST CHARLES, Mo. — The City of St. Charles announced Tuesday it would conduct an independent investigation into the water contamination at its Elm Point Well Field. The decision was made in response to the Environmental Protection Agency's "limited subsurface investigation."

The EPA investigation came after the City of St. Charles shut down five of its seven wells due to contamination and bought millions of gallons of water from the City of St. Louis to fill the gap.

Earlier this month, State Rep. Phil Christofanelli (R-St. Peters) and State Sen. Bill Eigel (R-Weldon Springs) announced the filing of legislation that would require the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to share its evidence of contamination with Attorney General Andrew Bailey so he may bring a civil action against "any entity" found responsible for tainting the public water system.

The City of St Charles said it repeatedly raised concerns about the EPA performing limited, one-time groundwater sampling and regretted the agency's decision to not fully evaluate the well field. Now, it is launching a "more complete" investigation to ensure that the drinking water in St. Charles remains safe and reliable to meet the needs of its citizens.

According to a news release from the city, the city's own investigation will include the installation of 26 permanent monitoring wells at 13 locations, where groundwater can be repeatedly sampled.

The wells will be installed at two different depths to allow better prediction of how operating the well field will affect the potential movement of contamination from the Ameren substation.

These monitoring wells will help the city better determine the extent of contamination coming from the Ameren Huster Road Substation, according to the release, and will allow for a more thorough characterization of the site than was completed under the EPA's management.

“We are committed to doing whatever it takes to continue to provide safe drinking water to our residents,” Mayor Dan Borgmeyer said in a statement. “We will do the necessary testing and evaluation to ensure that we have the full, complete picture of what is happening in the well field, so we can make the best decision for our city and the residents moving forward.”

But residents just want to know if their water is safe.

“I feel like it’s a lot of finger-pointing, and ‘Well we don’t know who to blame,'” said St. Charles resident Diane Seider.

Seider, like many other residents, has questions. 

Public Works Director Nick Gala doesn’t believe the EPA's sampling methods at the wellfield were enough.

"We feel like it was narrowly focused and not really representative of the entire well field," he said.

He said it's what led to the city announcing its own investigation.

"We're being overprotective. We're working to address the contamination and be able to define where it's moving, and how it's moving," St. Charles Utilities Supervisor Jim Phillips said.

Seider sees the pros and cons of the city getting involved.

“Maybe the city getting involved helps speed things up. It’ll be interesting to see if they come up with the same or different results," she said.

Seider said all of this back and forth makes residents feel out of the loop.

“It’s not easy information to get to," she said.

Seider has attended all public meetings on the issue, and she said it’s hard to measure what progress, if any, has been made.

“I felt like I had less answers after that meeting than I did going into it.”

Seider is looking ahead to proposed solutions, like the city's talks of drilling an entirely new wellfield. But it will all come down to what the results show.

“Hopefully we get some answers this time," she said.

The independent investigation will begin the week of Jan. 30, with the installation of wells being completed within 60 days.

The EPA has scheduled a community meeting to discuss groundwater contamination in St. Charles. 

The meeting at the St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Parish on Thursday, Feb. 23. The session will begin at 6 p.m. with a formal presentation held at 7 p.m. Following the presentation, EPA staff will facilitate a question-and-answer session until 8:30 p.m.

Ameren Missouri's environmental services director, Craig Giesmann, released the following statement:

"On behalf of more than 700 Ameren co-workers who live or work in the City and County of St. Charles, and the thousands more who live in the metropolitan St. Louis area, we share the goal of ensuring clean drinking water. Drinking water remains safe in St. Charles. Ameren Missouri continues to encourage all parties to work collaboratively to keep water safe. 

"We remain supportive of a thorough, transparent and efficient investigation led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide accurate information on the source of the issue, as well as constructive solutions. Until that EPA-led investigation is complete, the source is unclear and appropriate next steps cannot be determined. No matter the source, Ameren Missouri is committed to working with the EPA and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. 

"Federal regulations lay out detailed requirements to determine appropriate investigation and remedy selection procedures. The EPA has, and continues to follow, those procedures. Ameren Missouri has been fully cooperative in those efforts.

"Ameren Missouri's cleanup of the Huster substation has been successful in reducing on-site and off-site impacts from a cleaning product last used decades ago. Enhanced treatment for chemicals directly underneath the substation site is now underway to eliminate any residual material. This work is being performed under the supervision of the EPA."

To watch 5 On Your Side broadcasts or reports 24/7, 5 On Your Side is always streaming on 5+. Download for free on Roku or Amazon Fire TV.

Before You Leave, Check This Out