CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (AP) - For the first time in 118 years, Cape Girardeau residents are drinking water that isn't from the Mississippi River. The city completed a 15-year effort to switch to well water, which city officials say will provide roughly 18,000 customers with softer, better-tasting water.
With the click of a mouse Thursday, Mayor Harry Rediger ceremonially shut off the pumps at the river's intake valves that provided water for the city's water customers, The Southeast Missourian (http://bit.ly/HPKk8H) reported.
More than a dozen chemicals were used to treat the river water, said Kevin Priester, water services manager for Alliance, which is contracted to oversee the city's water system. He said well water will require fewer chemicals, and the savings are expected to offset the increased electric costs from pumping the water from four new alluvial wells to the treatment plant.
"The thing I worry about, if we focus on chemical savings, people will say, "Why didn't my water bill go down?"' Priester said.
He said he hopes customers will see the benefit of cleaner, better-tasting water, which will reduce calcium buildup on household items and decrease maintenance costs, as calcium deposits can cause occasional line breaks.
Cape Girardeau's first water system was established in 1894. More than three decades later, the Cape Rock Treatment Plant opened and was expanded in 1954 and 1967. A second Ramsey Branch Treatment Plant was built in 1978 and expanded in 1990. Two years later, Cape Girardeau bought the system from what is now Ameren Missouri.
The river was the sole provider of drinking water until 1977, when Ameren drilled its first wells. Later, treatment capacity was doubled with more wells near the secondary water treatment plant. But Ameren used well water sparingly, mainly during the summer's peak use times.
In 2006, city voters passed a $26.5 million bond issue and sales tax, which was partially used for a $17.6 million expansion to the city's Cape Rock plant. That project boosted the plant's capacity from 4.5 million gallons to 7.6 million gallons per day.
The city discovered a massive underground water supply with a safe water yield of about 250 million gallons a day, and new wells were drilled in the last three years. Each well will pump 1,800 gallons per minute.
The wells, controls and generator cost about $2.6 million and the pipeline's cost was about another $2 million. The money came from a combination of federal stimulus money, State Revolving Fund loans and the sales tax and bond revenue.
Mississippi River water could be used again, but only in an emergency, Priester said.
Information from: Southeast Missourian, http://www.semissourian.com