Franklin County Drought Task Force discusses dry conditions

April 24, 2002|BY RICHARD F. BELISLE

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Titus Martin pinpoints the beginning of the current drought back to October 2000, when he planted orchard grass on his 123-acre dairy farm on U.S. 30 east of Chambersburg.

Normally it would have grown to 4 to 6 inches by the time winter set in, he said. It sprouted but it only got to be about 2 inches tall.

When the grass comes back in the spring it usually reaches 20 inches, he said. It was dry in the summer and fall of 2001 and the grass did not rebound, he said.


Martin's knowledge of the drought is his own unscientific but personal study of events on his farm, he said.

The area's unusually dry condition was the only subject talked about at a meeting of the Franklin County Drought Task Force Tuesday.

Pennsylvania listed 24 counties, including Franklin, in a drought emergency condition that calls for a 15 percent reduction in water use. The emergency designation mandated that the affected counties appoint drought task forces to monitor conditions.

The consensus Tuesday was that while recent rains helped turn the area green and raised stream levels, they have done little to raise groundwater levels.

Local officials report more individual wells going dry than ever before.

The Waynesboro Borough Council has a rationing plan ready to go if the situation gets worse.

Dennis Mong, executive director of Franklin County Emergency Services and task force chairman, sought suggestions from task force members on how to cope with the problem.

Opinions included hauling water in, ensuring that area business and industry has enough water to keep operating; shutting down car washes and other nonessential businesses that use water and generally leaving matters up to local water authorities to decide what to do.

The members are looking for ways to keep the public informed of the severity of the drought and suggest ways to conserve.

Washington Township's storm water management plan was noted as a model for other municipalities to follow.

Washington Township Administrator Michael Christopher, who is not a member of the task force, said that the goal of the township's 20-year-old storm water management plan to is recharge the underground water supply rather than just sending it into the public sewer system and eventually into area streams.

In the last two decades, new homes had to have one of three approved systems - piping rooftop runoff into buried stone pits that allow it to seep into the ground; piping it to retention basins or shallow, grassy dips in yards where it collects and seeps into the ground; or piping it into buried retention tanks that do the same thing.

The system not only helps to recharge the ground water, but it helps to keep peak flow out of streams and creeks, Christopher said.

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