Fighting the flow - River water breaches Lone Star quarry

Tuesday, July 2, 2002

Lone Star Industries is in a battle with the Mississippi River, which has been spewing millions of gallons of water into the company's 350-foot-deep stone quarry for the past three months.

"It's dumping water on us, there's no question about that," said Lone Star spokeswoman Barbara Sinclair. "We're doing all we can to keep up with it."

With the river above flood stage and significant amounts of rainfall in March, a hole began allowing water to shoot into the quarry, which is at 2524 S. Sprigg St. Sinclair said company officials don't yet know what caused the hole.

"It began filling with water and then coming in at a faster, steady flow," she said. "It's hard to keep pace with it coming in at such a thrust."

Since then, the river water has risen to about 80 feet, causing the plant to begin pumping water out. Sinclair said with the use of special equipment, they are pumping 30 million gallons of water per day back into the Mississippi River.

The Cape Girardeau plant obtains its limestone from the quarry to make more than 1.3 million tons of cement a year.

"We're hoping in a couple of weeks we'll be ahead of it," she said. "It's very expensive to keep these pumps working 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

Of the 150 acres within the quarry, 25 to 30 are under water -- about one-fifth of the overall quarry and much more than usual. Some water is always in the quarry, and workers pump river water out on a regular basis. But it has never reached this level, Sinclair said.

Drilling holes for grout

In the meantime, Lone Star is drilling holes in areas between the river and the quarry in order to pour in grout. They hope the grout, a hardening substance described as a concrete without the rock, will block off the river water from the quarry.

"Plus, the river is going down," Sinclair said. "With our work and the pumping, we're hoping to get ahead before too much longer."

The water has not affected production, Sinclair said, adding that it would have to get another 50 feet higher to hinder production at the quarry.

Sinclair said she didn't know yet what the problem is costing Lone Star. She said the company has hired outside help and brought in some additional pumps to supplement their own.

Brad Ledbetter, an environmental specialist with the Department of Natural Resources in Poplar Bluff, Mo., said Lone Star told the DNR about the problem. The DNR has been working with the company to rectify it.

Ledbetter said Lone Star has a permit to discharge floodwater from the quarry. He said the company is not violating any environmental rules, but added it cannot let the problem continue for an extended period of time.

"They have to be taking measures to make sure it doesn't happen in the future or continue happening," Ledbetter said. "It sounds like what they're doing qualifies."

Lone Star Industries Inc., with its largest plant in Cape Girardeau, was purchased in 1999 by Dyckerhoff AG, a cement and building materials company with headquarters in Germany. The local plant employs 190 people and has an annual payroll of $8 million.

smoyers@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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