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McConnellsburg running dry

August 25, 1999

New Water TankBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer




McCONNELLSBURG, Pa. - While the effects of the drought are being felt throughout the Tri-State, McConellsburg may be the hardest-hit community in the region because its water system has not recovered from a prolonged drought last winter.

Mahlon Shimer, chairman of the McConnellsburg Borough Water Authority, said Wednesday the situation is so serious for the utility that serves 1,000 customers that at least 20 inches of rain would have to fall for the water supply to return to normal.

"Our water tables were left low from that drought and then things got worse in the summer. We have a very serious problem. We're past the concerned stage. Now we're at a critical point," Shimer said. "If a lot of rain doesn't come by this fall, we could run out of water."

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Despite a steady downpour on Wednesday and predictions of more rain ahead, water authority workers are concerned.

"We just built a brand new 300,000-gallon storage tank off Route 16, and we can't use it because we can't spare the water to fill it up so we can disinfect it - let alone find enough water just so we can use it," said Gene Stenger, assistant superintendent of the water authority.

The authority gets its water from a system of springs and wells in three areas, Stenger said.

A new well has been under construction since last winter's drought. Stenger said electric current still has to be hooked up to it and the pump has yet to be tested.

The state Department of Environmental Protection will have to sign off on the well before it can begin supplying water to the public system.

"If everything falls in line and there is no delay, we could have it running in about three weeks," Shimer said.

He said that when the new well is running, water from it can be used to clean and fill the new storage tank.

Meanwhile, the authority's customers are under orders to follow not only the water restrictions put into effect last month by Gov. Tom Ridge, but some tougher rules ordered by the authority.

Shimer said use of garden hoses is prohibited. "I don't want to see any of them out," he said.

The public schools in McConnellsburg, which are run by the Central Fulton School District, are being asked to use paper plates to cut back on dish washing, he said. Schools opened in the district Wednesday.

Stenger said administrators at the elementary school are being asked to shut down the air conditioning chiller units on the roof of the building to save an estimated 400 gallons a day.

Larger companies served by the system are being asked to conduct inspections at their plants and repair any water leaks, including those in sinks and toilets, Shimer said.

"We're doing anything we can to save water," he said.

JLG Industries, one of the borough water system's biggest users, is getting only its potable water from the authority, Shimer said. The company is hauling in about 35,000 gallons a day from private sources for its manufacturing operations, he said.

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