Ameren Trivializes Taum Sauk Disaster On New Website

Nearly two months after Ameren nearly killed Taum Sauk superintent Jerry Troop and his family and young children in a 12-minute tsunami nightmare that washed them out of their home in the wee hours of the morning the utility has finally launched a website talking about the disaster.

As per usual Ameren is clumsy in its handling of the incident. It still shows no contrition or even an apology showing that it is at least aware that it destroyed the most beautiful spot in Missouri. The page is not linked from the main Ameren page.

Worse the website minimizes the tragedy to Taum Sauk Superintendent Jerry Toops whose home was completely obliterated in a wall of water that washed him and his family away and resulted in his young children being disfigured from hypothermia burns in the 30 degree temps.

Here is Ameren’s entire summary of the events from its lead page.

On Dec. 14, 2005, the AmerenUE Taum Sauk Plant experienced a breach in its upper reservoir that caused flooding and extensive damage in the Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park and the closing of one road.

The rupture in the northwest corner of the plant’s 1.5-billion-gallon upper reservoir caused water to flow downward. The company immediately implemented its emergency plan and assembled a multidisciplinary team of experts, company officials and consultants to analyze the event and determine next steps.

Currently, several state and federal regulatory agencies are on the site to help determine the cause of the breach. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will issue a full report and share that publicly after it has been independently reviewed. That effort could take weeks. While we do this exhaustive analysis, Ameren is urging its employees, the media and the public, to avoid speculating about the cause of this incident.

Ameren has created this special Web site to keep the public up-to-date on restoration efforts.

There’s no mention that anybody was even hurt in this dry summary.

The only mention of any injury is in the FAQ and it trivializes the trauma the Toops endured.

3. Was anyone injured? What is their status?
A. A family of five was taken to a local hospital for observation and treatment. Three children were hospitalized, one for as long as 15 days. They have all been released from the hospital.

This of course gives no hint to the full extent of the horror the Jerry and Lisa Toops endured when the tsunami washed totally obliterated their home in 12 minutes 5:12 a.m. washing away Toops, his wife, and three young children (3-year old Tara, 7-month-old Tara and 5-year-old Tanner). Tanner suffered lifelong disfigurement burning after from hypothermia after being caught up in the water on the 30 degree morning. The blythe entry just implies sure there was “just one family” that was hurt and they’re o.k. because they’re out of the hospital. Read their harrowing story here.

The FAQ have some interesting results:

Why is the plant operated remotely? How long has it been operated remotely?

The Taum Sauk plant has been operated remotely since it was first put into service in 1963. Consistent with industry standards, the Taum Sauk plant was designed to operate remotely. Day shift people are on site for maintenance and some operational duties.


If the plant had been fully staffed, would this incident have happened?

There is no indication that having the plant staffed around the clock would have made any difference in whether this event occurred. The plant is located approximately one mile away from the upper reservoir. An operator located at the Taum Sauk plant would have used the same indications for filling the reservoir as the operator at Osage Plant used. He would not have had any more information to prevent the event.

Meanwhile we continue to be puzzled that there’s virtually no outrage in the State of Missouri in the blogosphere. Have these people not discovered the power of the blog?

The only negative comment (other than those just simply posting headlines) we’ve found so far is from Fired Up Missouri which wonders why DNR took money from Ameren after it became apparent they were going to be fighting with the company over the destruction of Johnson Shut Ins State Park.

Every people get the government they deserve. If Missourians feel they are powerless against a utility that also operates a nuclear power plant in the state’s heart, then they deserve what happens.

Highpointers Club Jack Longacre successfully fought Ameren’s plans to build two more reservoirs on top of mountains near Taum Sauk shortly before he died in 2002.

Since I personally have had dealings with Park Superintendent Jerry Toop over the years and have hiked throughout the area on the Ozark Trail, I don’t take kindly to Ameren’s blythe “that’s business as usual” mentality.

I was bowled over by the Taum Sauk facility when I first visited it in the 1960s with my parents. It was the ultimate self-sustaining power plant that was a wonderful alternative to the sulfur St. Louis stench from coal fired plants there. I feel major betrayal that this green plant was so incompetently and corruptly handled.

It is inevitable that it will be rebuilt however Missourians need to lay down the law on what will be acceptable. First off, the reservoir itself is going to have to be totally rebuilt. Having a reservoir in a gravel wall with a plastic liner simply won’t work when it’s on top of a mountain 100 miles from the most poweful earthquake fault in the Lower 48. There needs to be some sort of spill way so that overtopping won’t occur again.

And Ameren needs to say it’s sorry when it destroys the state’s most beautiful state park and terrorizes its superintendent and his family.

AmerenUE launches Taum Sauk Web site
St. Louis Business Journal

AmerenUE Creates Special Web Site to Update Public on Johnson’s Shut-Ins, Taum Sauk Area Restoration Work
February 6, 2006
PR News Wire