Ameren Fired Contractor for Flagging Environmental Violations, Lawsuit Says

Categories: Bidness
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A lawsuit filed on behalf of a local plumbing contractor alleges the company lost its contract with utility giant Ameren -- after the contractor informed Ameren management of violations of environmental law and illegal discharge of pollutants.

The suit was filed by Bishop & Associates, owned by Kara and Robert Bishop of St. Louis County, in the circuit court of St. Louis city yesterday. They're suing Ameren, its subsidiaries, and executives James Armistead, Michael Wright and Richard George.

In the lawsuit, the Bishops say their company worked with Ameren for seven years. And, by the time their contract was terminated in July 2010, they'd been "devoting all or substantially all" of their work to the utility.

During that time, they say, they reported violations to Ameren execs including "illegal discharges of oils from oil drums to soil, drainage ways, sewers and storm systems; broken and manipulated plumbing systems; and more." But, over the last two years, they allege, the officials began to take a "defensive stance," complaining that the remedies were "unnecessary and overly expensive."

Then, in July 2009, the Bishops were called to the company's headquarters for some emergency work. There they discovered that mechanics working for Ameren had "illegally installed a kitchen/break room that resulted in over $30,000 of damage to the plumbing system" -- which was embarrassing to the management that had signed off on the installation.

And, in 2009 and 2010, the Bishops say, they complained to higher-level managers that Ameren was "violating environmental laws, plumbing codes and Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District regulations and there were existing violations that the company needed to address." They provided a list of things that were wrong, as well as a plan to fix them -- and created a photo report that included documentation of "improper discharge of pollutants" at the company's Dorsett Road facility.

The Bishops allege that, by allowing contaminants to be released into the soil at that facility, Ameren broke the law and presented "an imminent and substantial endangerment to health or the violation." They had a series of meetings to share these concerns with top Ameren supervisors in May and June 2010.

One month later, they say, their contract was terminated.

The lawsuit alleges violations of public policy, breach of contract in violation of public policy and duty of good faith and fair dealing and tortious interference.

An Ameren spokeswoman said the company would have no comment at this time.

h/t to courthousenews.com, which first reported the suit.

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Bruce Morrison is Co-Counsel with Chackes & Halquist.  You may recall Bruces involvement in the Taum Sauk case against Ameren.

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