Editorial

New treatment facility means softer water

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Anyone who has lived in Cape Girardeau awhile knows all about city water. And it doesn't take any scientific research.

The water is hard. Very hard.

Residents who don't invest in water softeners and use water straight from the tap know it takes more detergent to get laundry clean. Toilets require industrial-strength products to get the rings out every week.

And glasses in the dishwasher? Forget about it. All the sheeting-action additive in the world isn't going to make much of a difference.

That's Mississippi River water.

We aren't alone. For miles and miles upstream, other cities have been taking drinking water out and putting treated wastewater back in.

No wonder the relief was palpable when the city announced it would begin the transition to well water with full use of well water by the fall. Taxpayers soon will see whether a major project to upgrade and expand the city's water-treatment system was worth the money.

In 1996, voters approved a quarter-cent sales tax to finance water-plant bonds. A $17.5 million expansion to the city's water plant followed.

But water quality wasn't the only issue.

Anyone who has lived in Cape Girardeau for more than a couple of years remembers the water-conservation requests during summer dry spells. Don't wash your car, city leaders said. Don't water your lawn.

The expansion addressed the quantity issue, increasing the plant's capacity to 7.6 million gallons a day from 4.5 million gallons. That seems like overkill until you realize that Cape Girardeau residents routinely demand 7 million gallons of water on a hot summer day, sending the city into its reserves to serve the need.

The reserve capacity has been increased by nearly 1.5 million gallons.

Not only does that mean plenty of water at all times to fight major fires, but also the ability to serve any major new industries that choose to locate here.

Finally, the clearing of trees for the new plant has created one of the most spectacular views of the Mississippi River in this city. A look at the new plant, inside and out, is available on the Southeast Missourian's Web site:

semissourian.com/photogallery/watertreatment

The change to softer city water won't be immediate. For the next few months, the city will operate the old Mississippi River system and begin drawing from 10 wells on the banks of the Mississippi as workers complete a renovation on the old filtration system to make it compatible with the new system.

And experts warn, even when the changeover is complete, the water won't be perfectly soft.

However, residents certainly can look forward to some improvements.

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