updated 12/13/2006 7:01:17 PM ET 2006-12-14T00:01:17

The state sued Ameren Corp. on Wednesday over the billion-gallon breach of a reservoir it says was caused by the utility’s negligence.

Ameren already has agreed to pay federal regulators a record $15 million fine for the December 2005 breach of the Taum Sauk reservoir, which created an instant flood that injured a family of five and nearly destroyed a southeastern Missouri state park.

“This was one of the worst man-made disasters in Missouri’s history, and our lawsuit alleges a long history of decisions by Ameren and its employees that led to this catastrophe,” Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon said in a statement.

The lawsuit, which seeks compensatory and punitive damages, was filed in St. Louis Circuit Court a day before the one-year anniversary of the breach. A spokeswoman for Ameren did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

An investigation by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission found that Ameren knew of critical problems at the reservoir at its hydroelectric plant atop Profitt Mountain for months before the collapse but did not fix them or close the plant over cost concerns.

When FERC announced the $15 million fine against Ameren in October, Gov. Matt Blunt said it “does not even begin to address the damages and environmental harm” the breach caused.

Nixon’s lawsuit came a day after the state Department of Natural Resources announced it had offered a proposed settlement over civil claims involving the breach. Nixon criticized that proposal Tuesday, saying it didn’t do enough for those closest to Taum Sauk.

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