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Well diggers fare well, others don't

August 09, 1999

By SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writer

Business is drying up for construction crews, farm equipment suppliers, nurseries and other local businesses because of the dought.

But business is booming at well drilling companies as residents with dry wells search for new sources of water.

Demand at the SEC Well Drilling and Pumping Co. in Greencastle, Pa., is double that of last summer, said Chief Financial Officer Bill Shinham.

Wealthy residents say they'll pay any amount for successful new drills, Shinham said.

"Some people are pretty desperate," he said.

The company now has a backlog and some people have to wait two to three weeks longer than usual to get new wells, he said.

John V. Shaff Well Drilling of Boonsboro also is much busier than usual, said Office Manager Chris Hurley.

The number of emergency wells they are digging for customers has increased, she said. A well is considered an emergency when it goes completely dry, she said.

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When digging for new wells they have encountered almost as many dry wells as successful ones, she said.

Other companies are having different problems.

Any benefits his company is getting from having fewer rainy days this summer is outweighed by problems caused by the drought and heat, said Mike Callas, president of Callas Contractors of Hagerstown.

For example, work crews are starting at 3 a.m. instead of 7 a.m. on some days because of the excessive heat. July was the hottest it's been in a century this year with temperatures exceeding 90 degrees on 23 out of 31 days.

Shenandoah Construction Management LLC crews and their subcontractors have been unable to work a full 8-hour shift because of the heat, causing project delays, said Trish Sanderson, manager of the Martinsburg, W.Va., company.

Some digging and excavation work is taking longer than usual because the ground is so hard and dry, she said.

In other areas, problems on Tri-State area farms are trickling down to suppliers of farm-related equipment.

Sales have dropped "considerably" in the last 60 days at Antietam Ford Tractor in Hagerstown, which sells and rents farm equipment, said Jim Reed, company manager and owner.

The company won't feel the full impact until the fall because July and August are usually slow, he said.

Sales at another farm equipment dealer, Carlye & Martin Inc. in Hagerstown, are about normal for this time of year, said Manager Harold Showalter.

However, he said he expects to see a drop in the fall as local farmers decide to spend their money on feed rather than new equipment.

Sales are about normal now at Maugansville Feed Service Inc., but they will likely drop in the winter, said Manager Jeff Rohrer.

Farmers are stockpiling feed and grain so they won't have to buy it in the winter, he said.

Nurseries throughout the region are reporting drought-related problems.

Laurie Morkved, landscaping designer for Ott's Horticulture Center in Chewsville, said she is getting many calls from residents asking what they should do about scorched plants.

Her response is to keep watering the plants and deep soak them every two to three days, she said.

But Maryland and Pennsylvania have banned watering of lawns altogether and have asked everyone to cut back watering everything else.

Pennsylvania has limited lawn-watering to the evening while West Virginia is asking residents to limit how much water they use on plants and lawns.

"There is going to be a lot of dead plants," Morkved said.

Many of her customers are opting to wait until the fall before planting any new plants, she said.

"Nobody wants to put plants into the ground - it's too hot," she said.

Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania are asking or prohibiting residents from washing their own cars but car wash businesses are still allowed to operate under certain conditions - such as using some recycled water.

Town Center Car Wash in Waynesboro is getting a little bit more business than usual, said Manager Rich Gsell, while business at Magic Tunnel Car Wash in Hagerstown is about normal, according to Manager Tina Shank.

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