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County keeps its drought status

June 19, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Impending summer may have people in the mood to fill up backyard swimming pools or wash their cars in their driveways, but both activities are still restricted in Franklin County, which is now in its fifth month under a drought emergency status.

Gov. Mark Schweiker declared the drought emergency for Franklin County and 23 other counties with dangerously low groundwater levels in February and extended the order in May. On Friday, he lifted the drought emergency for six counties and restored 14 others to normal status.

Rainfall in Franklin County is still below average and groundwater levels have not recharged, so residents are asked to conserve 10 percent to 15 percent of their daily water usage and obey state restrictions, said Dennis Monn, chairman of the Franklin County Drought Task Force.

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"We've had rain here lately, but we're still falling behind," Monn told task force members Tuesday. "Rain is spotty."

He said Chambersburg has recorded 2.4 inches of rain this month, but totals are lower elsewhere in the county.

Mercersburg, Pa., has received 1.2 inches, Shippensburg, Pa., 1.73 inches and Waynesboro, Pa. 1.85 inches, he said.

"Waynesboro and Greencastle are still showing three to four inches behind normal rainfall," Monn said.

"Everything looks great on the surface, but it's still not helping underground water," he said.

Waynesboro-area weather observer Todd Toth said the region has received 14.51 inches of rain to date, with about 1.25 inches coming last Thursday, Friday and Saturday. In a normal year, the area would have 20.5 inches of rain by the end of June.

"Everyone sees rain, but we're not catching up underneath," Monn said.

Waynesboro's reservoir finally flowed over the spillway last month after dropping down as low as 15-feet 4-inches below, said S. Leiter Pryor, head of public utilities for the borough.

"We are in a lot better shape than we were thinking we would be," Pryor said. "We will be okay as long as people watch what they do and take a close look at what they use."

Reservoirs in Greencastle and Mercersburg also filled up this spring.

Chambersburg's Long Pine Reservoir was still 8-feet 6-inches below the spillway as of Friday, said Bruce McNew, assistant water superintendent. That's up from about 19-feet below the spillway a few months ago.

McNew said the borough has a 275-day water supply and the reservoir is still filling.

"I'll be comfortable when I see water going over" the spillway, McNew said.

Fourteen counties - Adams, Bedford, Berks, Chester, Cumberland, Delaware, Franklin, Fulton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Northampton, Schuylkill and York - remain in drought-emergency status and should continue to follow mandatory water restrictions on non-essential water use.

Restrictions include strict limitations on the watering of lawns, athletic fields, golf courses and the washing of automobiles; not serving water in eating places unless requested by the customer; and closing down of indoor and outdoor ornamental fountains, waterfalls, and ornamental pools unless they are needed to sustain aquatic life.

Residents can fill swimming pools with water purchased by a water hauler and clean cars at commercial car washes.

The drought task force will hold its next meeting July 23 at 9 a.m. in the Franklin County Courthouse.

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