Heavy rains cause sewage releases into Mississippi River

Friday, August 9, 2013
In this file photo, former wastewater treatment coordinator Dennis Hale describes how wastewater enters the Cape Girardeau Wastewater Plant on Friday, April 30, 2010. (Kristin Eberts)

Heavy rain in Cape Girardeau this week proved too much for the city's aging wastewater treatment plant to handle Thursday, causing operators to allow a release of untreated wastewater into the Mississippi River.

Todd Fulton, wastewater treatment coordinator, said untreated water and waste went into the river for two hours Thursday. The release of once-treated material began just after noon and continued into Thursday evening.

Untreated wastewater being dumped into the river here has become a common occurrence during peak usage times because the plant does not have the capacity to handle all it takes in, especially during heavy and persistent rainfall.

As of Thursday, just under two inches of rain was recorded at the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport since Sunday, according to figures from the National Weather Service. More than an inch of that total fell Thursday in about an hour.

Until voters in 2011 approved the building of a new wastewater treatment plant, the city was fined by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources for sewage releases.

"The building of the new plant was a remedy for that," said city manager Scott Meyer. "But had we not taken action by approving it, we would still be subject to those rules."

However, the city reports releases to the DNR as required, Fulton said.

The DNR also is requiring the city to finish the new plant, which is being built next to the public works department on the Southern Expressway, by next summer. Meyer has said the construction remains on-schedule.

The new plant is designed to handle an average flow of 11 million gallons a day and a peak daily capacity of 50 million gallons. The current plant has a capacity of 7 million gallons a day. The estimated cost of the new plant is $55 million. A voter-approved increase in the capital improvements sales tax and an increase in user rates are paying for the construction.

A plant in St. Louis also was forced to release untreated wastewater into the Mississippi River on Wednesday. A power outage was blamed for a 90-minute discharge of 3.5 million gallons at the Bissell Point Wastewater Treatment Plant.



Pertinent address:

2007 Southern Expressway, Cape Girardeau, MO

429 Cooper St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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