Cape Gets New Floculator

Cape water plant gets new settling basin 07-06-1967The Missourian ran one of my pictures and a story about construction resuming on a new floculator settling basin at the city’s water plant on East Cape Rock Drive. The caption said Missouri Utilities planned to build an additional clarifier,similar to the basin at top right. Water mixed with chemicals was pumped into tanks and the mud settled to the bottom.

Preparing for population of 50,000

Cape water plant gets new settling basin 07-06-1967

The July 8, 1967, story said the expansion was to prepare for the day when Cape’s population would reach 50,000. [The 2011 Census pegged Cape at 38,402. It still has a ways to go.]

The expansion was going to increase the city’s water output by 150 per cent. The original water plant was designed to hand about 3 million gallons of water a day, enough for about 31,500 persons. During the previous summer’s heat wave, the plant hit a peak of 3,880,000 gallons a day, exceeding its theoretical capacity. The improvements were to boost capacity to 4-1/2 million gallons a day.

Water comes from Mississippi River

 Cape water plant gets new settling basin 07-06-1967

Production engineer Fred N. LaBruyere said a pump used to pull water 1,900 feet from the river to the treatment plant would be replaced. The last major construction work took place in 1954, he said, and it was to improve the quality of the water, not the quantity.

[I hate to think what it tasted like before 1954. Cape water used to taste like chlorine with a few drops of water added.] I believe I read recently that all of Cape’s water comes from wells, not the river, these days.

Over the years, I got to cover the whole range of Cape liquids from the water treatment plant at the head end to the sewage treatment plant at the —uhhhh— other end.

Here are a few of the posts:



Cape Sewer Project 1940-41

Dad worked for Markham and Brown Construction before he started his own company. These photos are from one of his scrapbooks. They were captioned “Sewer Job – 1940 – 41 Cape.” His sewers aren’t as old as the ones I posted yesterday.

1936 Project required 25 to 100 men

I couldn’t find any news stories about the 1940 project, but E.L. Markham was awarded a $125,837.69 contract to construct a sanitary sewer in the West End in 1936. The February 1, 1936, Missourian story said the project would employ an average of 25 to 100 men for a period of three months. The money was going to  come from PWA, one of the alphabet soup of “make-work” agencies created to get men working and pull the country out of the depression. (We’d call that a stimulus project today).

80% of work to be done by machines

Eighty per cent of the excavation work was to be done by machinery. Laying the sewer pipes would be done by guys like this. About 11 miles of ditches needed to be dug.

Dad said a guy came up to him on a job and complained, “Mister, that dragline you’re operating put 20 men with shovels out of work.”

Without missing a beat, Dad responded, “Yep, or 2,000 men with teaspoons.”

The H.H.S. in the above photo would have been my Uncle Hubert Steinhoff. He ended up working for an asphalt company in Illinois.

Skilled labor made 60 to 75 cents per hour

Three classes of labor were to be employed: skilled, semi-skilled or intermediate, and common laborer. Ninety per cent of the workers were to be taken from the relief rolls in the city before looking for other workers.

Skilled labor, such as operators of machines, concrete finishers and brick layers, were to be paid 60 to 75 cents per hour; intermediate labor, 40 cents, and common labor, 30 cents. Because the goal was to employ as many men as possible, no laborer could be worked more than eight hours a day or 130 hours a month. The PWA preferred that the work day be divided up into two five-hour shifts.

I remember Peewee

Some of these guys have the fresh-off-the-farm look of some of the fellows I worked with one summer. One young guy named Peewee was built like a fireplug and was strong as an ox. He would make lunch money by betting passersby that he could rip his shirt off just by expanding his chest. As soon as the mark had handed over the ernest money, Peewee would take a big gulp of air and the shirt would go ripping off like The Hulk on the TV show.

One day three or four of us were wresting a concrete bucket onto a truck. Peewee walked up, told us to step aside, and threw it on the truck by himself.

Dad was really sorry the day Peewee told him he was going to have to leave the job because he’d been drafted. All that was left was for him to pass his physical. The next day Peewee was back on the job. The army rejected him because he had gotten “all stoved up” when a wagon fell over on him when he was a kid. Maybe that’s why I was a 128-pound weakling: I didn’t have a wagon fall on me during my formative years.

Photo gallery of sewer project

Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to move through the gallery.



Sewers and Tunnels in Cape

“Is it part of the Underground Railroad?” is the question that comes up every time someone encounters a below-ground structure in the older parts of Cape. Not being a historian, but being a guy who has wielded a shovel in Cape Girardeau and tried to cut through rocks and roots, I’m going to say, “Nope.”

The labor and logistics of moving rock and dirt would be greater than frugal Cape Girardeans would consider expending to move escaped slaves up north. Still, there ARE interesting things under beneath our feet in the city.

Richard Cochran explorations

Here is an email I received from Richard Cochran, Jr., Class of ’84.:

I am very appreciative of the work you put in on your site about Cape Girardeau. I still am fascinated by the history in the city. Many of the articles are before my time (Central Graduate of 84); but, I can relate and have seen many of the items you photograph and discuss.

Longview (Thilenius House)

The Thilenius House Wine Cellar and other wine cellar stories are of particular interest. I have some first hand knowledge of the colonial house mentioned in the Thilenius House article as I was working for my father when that home was designed. I helped draft the house plans. I particularly remember surveying the site and examining the wine cellar when we started that project.

The newer home which was built by an Indian doctor in the mid 80’s was located behind the cellar. I remember his purchase of the property required that the cellar not be damaged. I also remember that the house had one room designed around a particular piece of furniture that he had which was an odd dimension not fitting in most normal rooms. I think he sold the house since then; but, not positive.

I’m not sure if the cellar still exists; but, it seems that the last time I drove by there, I couldn’t see it anymore.

Sanitary and storm sewers

Anyway, to get on with it, I am a Civil Engineer and have worked on some sewer projects in the city. One of these near City Hall got me climbing into manholes to verify things. At one time, the sanitary sewer and storm sewer were combined in this area and flowed through the same pipes/tunnels. It think over time, some of this infrastructure has been replaced and I know in the mid 2000’s, the sanitary was separated from the storm so that it could be treated at the wastewater plant instead of discharged into the river.

Stone and brick tunnels

During my inspections, I found older parts of the sewer system which were tunnels. These were constructed of stone and brick in some areas. This piqued my interest as well, wondering when they were constructed and if they possibly served other purposes. I’ve heard the stories all my life of tunnels from homes to the river used by the underground railroad and wondered if possibly, some of these storm tunnels were actually what was used?

I’ve attached some photos that I took of these tunnels. They aren’t the best quality; but, you can see the tunnel and where some changes have been made connecting pipes and such.

Cape Sewers in 1940-1941

I have one of Dad’s scrapbooks that shows the Cape sewers being constructed in 1940-41. I’ll run more photos soon. The sewers Richard photographed are much older than Dad’s project. Dad’s trenching was done mostly by hand (under conditions that would cause an OSHA heart attack these days), but all of the pipes were precast concrete instead of stone and brick.