DNR: Water system will have little environmental impact

Thursday, June 8, 2006

Those tired of that Mississippi River taste in their drinking water may be in luck. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources says the environmental impact of a proposed $10.25 million upgrade to Cape Girardeau's water system is negligible.

That means if all goes according to plan, within one year, the city will begin construction on four new wells, a water line, and perhaps a booster pump station needed to stop relying on the river for up to 20 percent of its water.

"Our goal is to get away from depending directly on the river for water," said public works director Tim Gramling. "That way the water will be much better quality and cheaper to treat once we get it from the ground. When it comes from underground sources impurities are filtered out naturally so you don't have to put the same chemicals in to purify it."

Gramling cautioned, though, the river city will always indirectly depend on the big muddy for its water. "It just depends on how closely you want to look at it," he said. Underground sources also come from the river, Gramling said, but are filtered up through levels of rock and alluvium.

Cape Girardeau currently has two treatment plants. The first on Cape Rock Drive has a capacity of 8 million gallons per day and treats a blend of river and alluvial well water. The second plant on South Sprigg Street is used only during high demand periods and has a capacity of 3 million gallons per day.

Today, the city's maximum one-day demand is 9.17 million gallons. DNR estimates that population increases over the next 20 years will elevate that total to 12.22 million gallons. The new project will help meet that new demand.

At the end of the project, the plants will be capable of purifying as much as 15 million gallons of water daily, said Kevin Priester, water systems manager for Alliance Resources.

But if Cape Girardeau wants the state loan this year, it will have to act fast. To date there is about $15 million left in Missouri's annual revolving fund for drinking water. Applicants for the money are prioritized by need and bonding capacity. Cape Girardeau ranks ninth on a list of 31 cities across the state seeking money.

"They could do it as soon as they want, and if the money is there and they give us a complete fundability plan, they could get the money," said Stephen Jones, environmental engineer for the DNR.

In May of 2004, Cape Girardeau completed a $17.6 million improvement project to the treatment plant on Cape Rock Drive. The improvement was funded through a bond initiative and retired with money from a quarter-cent sales tax increase approved by voters in 1996.

As much as $3 million remains from that project and city officials said the new improvements will go forward in phases with no need for an immediate bond initiative.

The first phase of construction will include four new alluvial wells, each with a depth of 140 feet. These wells will be connected to the Cape Rock treatment plant by 28,300 feet of ductile iron piping.

tgreaney@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 245

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