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County soaks up wet finish to 2002

January 02, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, PA. - Turn on the spigots. Water your lawns. Wash your cars.

The 2002 drought, which officially began in 1999, is over, local public water system officials in Franklin County said Tuesday, although some think it's still a good idea to use water wisely.

Rainfall in the region for 2002 measured 38.95 inches, less than 2 inches below a normal year's rainfall of 40.9 inches, Todd Toth, Waynesboro weather observer, said.

That was a whole lot better than the 21.82 inches recorded in 2001, some 19.08 inches below normal. Precipitation was better in 2000, with 38.1 inches falling, Toth said, but in 1999, the year he believes was the beginning of the drought, only 32.74 inches was recorded.

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Those who run the area's public water systems are breathing sighs of relief and hoping 2003 brings enough rain to keep their reservoirs and wells filled.

Things were pretty dire in Waynesboro in March when the level at the borough's reservoir dropped more than 15 feet below the spillway - a record. Borough officials were seriously considering putting water rationing into effect.

Gov. Mark W. Schweiker declared a drought emergency in many Pennsylvania counties, including Franklin and Fulton. The state's drought emergency plan called for a 10 percent reduction in use. Waynesboro called on its residents to cut back 15 percent.

After numerous fall rains, the governor lifted the plan last month.

"We're really doing well," S. Leiter Pryor, director of public utilities for Waynesboro, said Tuesday. "The reservoir has been overflowing for several months."

Paul Sharrow, superintendent of the public water system in Mercersburg, Pa., said that community's reservoir was flowing over the spillway.

"Our low point was September. We were down to a 30-day supply," he said.

The system has several wells that it taps into when the reservoir gets too low, he said.

"Hopefully, it will stay pretty wet next year," Sharrow said. "The creeks are flowing nicely and you can hear the tributaries running under the rocks when you go into the woods. We're in good shape now."

Things are looking good for the reservoir's supplying Chambersburg, Pa., area residents, too. Borough Manager Eric Oyer said Long Pine Run Reservoir, the borough's largest, is 80 percent full and he expects it will be full in the next two weeks.

"We're very encouraged by the water levels," Oyer said.

Ed Nunemaker, head of the borough water system in Mont Alto, Pa., said the community's well rose more than 15 feet between Nov. 1 and Monday.

"If it stays where it is, we'll be out of the woods," he said.

Nunemaker said the borough is ready to put a second, new well online as soon as it receives its state Department of Environmental Protection permits.

The expansion is needed to bring more lines into neighboring Quincy Township where growth is expected to increase as a new townshipwide sewer system goes online. Construction of Quincy's new 21-mile public sewer system is under way.

"Our new well will meet our demands," Nunemaker said.

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