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Mercersburg officials seek funds to help ease water woes

April 07, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - Mercersburg officials on Thursday asked state Rep. Patrick E. Fleagle to help them secure approximately $1.5 million to make an existing well usable and $800,000 to stretch a supply line to James Buchanan Middle School and James Buchanan High School.

"Sometimes the water has so much sediment you can't drink it," Tuscarora School District Business Manager Richard Kerr said. "Sometimes it's orange."

No known dangers are associated with the water despite the sediment, Kerr said.

"It tests bacteria free, and there aren't any chemicals we're aware of," he said.

The Mercersburg Water Authority has placed a moratorium on connections outside the borough limits but will fulfill previous commitments, officials said.

"We're experiencing a tremendous amount of growth as is most of the county," Mercersburg Borough Manager Artie Speicher said.

Well No. 3 near Seminary Street was shut down in the 1990s due to high nitrate levels from farm fertilizer. Now that the middle and high schools, which are in Peters Township, are experiencing trouble with their water system, the water authority wants to start distributing water from Well No. 3 again.

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Well No. 3 was pumping 500 gallons of water a minute when shut down but would require its own treatment plant and a 180-foot wellhead protection area if reopened. The well has been undergoing testing to ensure it's a viable source of water, and it also provides water for fire services.

The preferred path to connecting to the schools would require 6,000 feet of supply line.

"It would encourage development of those farms" in between, Fleagle said.

He explained that assuming the authority would fund the difference between the amount of money he secured and the cost of the project, it would borrow money based on revenue from connection and monthly use fees. This would require the authority, by necessity, to develop a philosophy of encouraging growth.

Fleagle, R-Franklin, asked the authority to provide documents for him to take to other legislators and various government agencies.

Tuscarora School District is midway through a 99-year lease on ground it uses for the current water system that serves the two secondary schools.

"We've had three breaks in that main line in the past five years," Kerr said.

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