Marquette to Cut Emisson of Dust

“Marquette to Cut Emission of Dust” was the headline on page one of The Missourian on March 29, 1966, about the time I shot this aerial. The quarry is to the north of the cement plant. Click on the photo to make it larger.

In an understatement, Charles J. Line, vice president of operations and engineering, acknowledged that the dust “is a nuisance.” He pledged the company’s best efforts to alleviate the problem.

Dust from the cement plant coated cars, wash on the line, even the streets with a gritty white powder. Mr. Line said that to totally eliminate the dust would be virtually impossible; the reduction to half is about the best result which reasonably can be expected, he added.

Technology, regulations cleaned up the air

Looks like tighter regulations on pollution and better technology accomplished more than Mr. Line ever thought possible. Here is a photo I took Nov. 10, 2010 from the ninth floor of the Buzzi Unicem USA cement plant. The round object in the center is the equivalent of the dust-belching stack in the aerial photo from the 60s. The only thing I could detect coming out of the stack was heat, as evidenced by a slight distortion in the photo. The white building at the right of the frame is the Natatorium. The view is to the west.




Trail of Tears Quarry Rescue


Early the morning of November 15, 1965, I got a call from The Missourian to saddle up my pony and head to the quarry at Trail of Tears State Park to cover a rescue. It must have been too chilly or too early for them to roust Frony out of bed.

I know I saw the negatives from that morning somewhere recently, but I must have misplaced them. I’ll make do with a copy of the front page of that day’s Missourian. Someone other than me drew in the X and apparently “enhanced” the tops of the bluffs. Or, it might just be that the microfilm reproduction makes it look that way.

The Associated Press picked up the photo, probably because of the St. Louis connection. I think it might have been my first Wirephoto. I was excited about it in those days. I was less excited 20 years later when they were still paying a lousy five bucks per photo.

Student spent night trapped on bluff.

You can read the whole story in The Missourian,but you have to work for it. The Google index is messed up, so that link takes you to the November 12 edition. You’ll have to keep scrolling to the right until you get to the front page of the Monday paper. While you’re scrolling, you might want to pause to read the Nov. 13 account of the fire and sinking of the cruise ship Yarmouth Castle. Gordon Lightfoot immortalized it in Ballad of Yarmouth Castle on his Sunday Concert album, arguably his second most famous song after The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Here’s the short version: William A. Erfurth, 22, a SEMO junior from a St. Louis suburb was trying to scale a 300-foot bluff north of Trail of Tears State park on Sunday when his footing gave way. He managed to scramble to a rock about 60 feet from the top of the bluff where he was stuck for about 13-1/2 hours until he was rescued the next morning.

A buddy, Don Powers, 25, of Webster Groves, who didn’t make the climb, built a fire and kept talking to Erfurth though the night. It took longer to get help than it might have because Erfuth’s keys were lost in a comedy of errors. Erfurth had the keys with him up on the bluff. He threw a small rock down so that Powers would have an idea of where to look for the keys. He then wrapped the keys in a handkerchief and threw them down. “They haven’t been found yet,” Erfurth commented. That meant that Powers had to walk out for help.

Rescuers came from Mississippi County

A Mississippi County Rescue Squad eventually made it to a point where they could drop ropes to the stranded youth. The climbers included Joe Lankheit (or Lankhett), Mike Bryant, Dewey Bickford and Ralph Carr. Chief Sam Story said the ascent was made at “considerable hazard” to the four men.

Besides the Sheriff’s Patrol and the Mississippi County unit, members of the Highway Patrol and the Cape Girardeau Auxiliary Police were on scene during the night. Robert Eckelmann, auxiliary chief, said he and Frank Maevers tried to reach the top of the bluff by jeep, but the terrain was too rough. Erfurth was unharmed.

The cliff is located about 1-3/4 north of the end of the Moccasin Springs Road. Most of the rescuers rode to the scene by handcars of the Frisco Railroad. (I don’t remember if I got a ride on a handcar or if I had to hoof it.)

Quarry looks pretty from the air

I asked pilot Ernie Chiles to fly close to Trail of Tears on our way up to Perry County in April to see if I could spot the quarry. It was much bigger than I had imagined. That early morning in 1965 was the first (and last) time I had been there. I’m going to hazard a guess that some of you have been much closer to it than I’ve been.

Flooded Quarry, Sprigg Sinkholes

The water in the cement plant’s quarry is a little lower than when neighbor Bill Bolton took his photos earlier in the month, but there’s still a lot of water in the bathtub. Here are pictures of the ebb and flow of water in the pit since 2002.

Pumping water into Cape LaCroix Creek

One reason they’re gaining on it is a new pipeline pumping water into Cape LaCroix Creek at South Sprigg. I don’t know if both pipes were being used at one time or if the one is being held as a spare.

It’s only fair that water be pumped¬† back into the creek because that’s where some of it is seeping from.

Sinkholes present challenge

Getting TO the quarry was a bit of a challenge. You can’t get there by going south out of Cape on South Sprigg. It’s closed at Cape LaCroix Creek because of some massive sinkholes. We had to come in from the west.

Devices along railroad tracks

I don’t know what these devices are along the railroad tracks north of the cement plant and south of the creek. Railroads have been using defect detectors for years to find overheating wheel bearings, called “hotboxes;” loads that have shifted; how many axles are on the train; objects sticking out and other anomalies. The devices transmit a radio report to the crew when it passes.

Until regular reader and train buff Keith Robinson chimes in, I’m going to speculate that these devices may be looking for changes in the track that would signal a sinkhole has opened up or swallowed the track.

Gallery of photos

Here are more photos of the Sprigg Street sinkholes and the railroad devices. Click on any image to make it larger, then click on the right or left side to move through the gallery.

Cement Quarry Caves

Sometime back in the 70s, I heard that the Marquette cement plant was going to blow the caves that had been made to quarry limestone in the days before heavy equipment made removing overburden easy. (Click on any photo to make it larger.)

It might have been The Missourian’s story with a whole page of Fred Lynch photos on Page 6 that tipped me off. Here’s the link to the story about the caves. You’ll have to page back to see his pictures.

Pitched story to architectural magazine

I pitched the story idea to an architectural magazine. They wouldn’t give me an assignment, but they said they’d look at whatever I shot. I don’t recall if they eventually turned the story down or if I never got around to submitting it to them. I think it was the latter.

So, the Kodachrome slides spent 30-plus years in storage, where the color shifted slightly.

Edward Hely founded company in 1904

The Missourian’s story said that Edward Hely started the stone company in 1904; it bore his name until 1931, when it became the Federal Materials Co. The quarry was known as the Blue Hole because of the color of the water when it filled up.

Marquette Cement bought the property in 1976.

By the time Marquette Cement bought the property in 1976, the two quarries were separated by just about 100 feet, most of which was taken up by a network of caves. Federal Materials found it easier to dig horizontally to extract the limestone than to remove 35 to 50 feet of overburden – earth and lower grade stone – to get to the rock.

When the tunneling stopped, the quarry was about 375 feet deep. The pillars averaged 150 feet in height and were 35 to 45 feet in diameter.

Caves collapsed in 1981

In its May 17, 1981 edition, The Missourian pulled out all the stops to cover the collapse of the caves. Fred captured the action and reporter John Ramey wrote a first-person account of seeing a million tons of rock collapse on itself. The story said that crews spent two months drilling 850 blast holes and loading them with 600,000 pounds of dynamite. Some of the deepest 200-foot holes contained as much as 1,400 pounds of dynamite.

You could walk a long way

Present-day Buzzi Unicem plant manager Steve Leus was part of the team that handled the blast. When he gave me a tour of the plant and the quarry last fall, he said, “I was in the caves myself. It was massive. You could walk a long way before you came to the end of that cave.”

Columns were massive

“The columns were massive,” he continued. “They had to be to hold up that roof.”

They way they mined in those days, he explained, was “they drilled into the side of the limestone, then they blasted, then they mucked it out. Basically what they ended up doing was tunneling.”

You wouldn’t make that mistake twice

“They had a feel for what size column to leave to support the roof, and, if they didn’t, they didn’t make that mistake twice,” Leus said.

Some of the tunnels are under Sprigg

Leus pointed out some of the tunnels that extend under Sprigg Street. “We don’t know how far back they go,” he said. Present-day safety regulations make it complicated to enter what is considered a mine, so no one in recent history has explored the caves. (I’ll have pictures of those in the future.)

Seep water poured down sidewalls

Ground water would find its way into seams and leak down the walls of the quarry. Pumps would send it on its way through underground pipes until it made it back to the Mississippi River.

Quarry was about 375 feet deep

When Marquette Cement acquired the Federal Materials quarry, the deepest part was about 375 feet deep. Access to to the bottom was over rough, steep and curving haul roads.

Shafts of light and darkness

You were constantly moving into areas of shade and darkness when you drove along the haul road and through the caves.

Enough stone for another 10-15 years

Leus said there is enough stone in the quarry to last for another 10-15 years. They’re expanding to the north and west now since they’ve gone just about as deep as practical at this point.

A 1981 story estimated the reserves would last about 30 years, so either production has slowed or more rock is being extracted than predicted. The cement plant owns property near Scott City that could be mined in the future.

A place of beauty

There was something to shoot in every direction. This made me think of the grand canyon.

A shame to lose them

It was a shame to lose these beautiful features, but safety regulations would bar anyone from seeing them today, so it may be better that the stone was turned into the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge and roads and buildings in the region.

More photos to come

I’ll have more photos of the quarry and the cement plant taken last fall. Some of the photos from the 9th floor of the plant show spectacular views all the way to Academic Hall. The day was so clear that Crowley’s Ridge was visible in the distance.