Ameren pursues plan to rebuild Taum Sauk

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- Ameren Corp. has received a set of state permits that will allow it to build an experimental concrete plant that could pave the way to rebuilding the Taum Sauk reservoir, which collapsed last year.

The new concrete plant is part of a pilot project whereby Ameren will grind up the remains of the ruined Taum Sauk reservoir walls and turn them into concrete to build a new basin.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources granted Ameren air and water pollution permits to build the concrete plant, which will mix crushed stone from the reservoir walls with fly ash, water and cement.

Ameren spokesman Tim Fox said in an e-mail statement the company has not made a final decision whether to rebuild the reservoir in southeast Missouri. Fox said the new concrete plant is simply part of an effort to see how feasible rebuilding the reservoir would be.

The Taum Sauk reservoir held more than 1 billion gallons of water, which was released nightly to generate electricity. Taum Sauk was a profitable plant for Ameren because it could generate power at a moment's notice. Plant operators used it to make electricity when prices were highest, selling the power on the open market for a profit.

Ameren has said most of the cost to rebuild the plant will be covered by insurance.

The reservoir's walls are made of earth and stone. Ameren hired an engineer to study the reservoir collapse, and he said the earthen structure didn't meet current standards.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission fined Ameren $15 million for the reservoir collapse, the largest fine the agency has ever levied.

FERC investigators concluded that Ameren knew of critical problems at the Taum Sauk reservoir for months and delayed repairs that could have prevented the collapse.

Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon is conducting criminal and civil investigations into the collapse.

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