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Trustees want help with water

Decatur Township trustees handed out drinking water again Thursday, as residents continued their battle with the drought and no public water service.

Friday, August 13, 1999

Decatur Township trustees handed out drinking water again Thursday, as residents continued their battle with the drought and no public water service.

"Kimble Creek hasn’t had water since the floods," said Bob Schweickart of the Decatur Township Volunteer Fire Department.

Floodwaters ruined some wells and those that remained have been hit by the drought now, Schweickart said.

"The wells are so low and the sulfur is so bad, you can’t even wash clothes," he said. "They’ve been trying to get water up here for the past five years.

"I don’t understand why they can’t run the water up there. Four miles of water line is all it would take and a lot goes over government land. It’s a mystery why they can’t get the water."

Ohio Emergency Management Agency officials will visit Decatur next Thursday to get a firsthand look at Lawrence County’s drought conditions, commissioner Paul Herrell said.

With that information, the governor could issue a disaster declaration that would allow the county access to dollars for water and distribution.

Meanwhile, future help for residents without a water source depends on if the county wins state grant money this year, commissioner George Patterson said.

"Yes, the county did promise water two or three years ago, but we can’t put it in unless we get the money," Patterson said.

The county applied for a Community Development Block Grant totaling $1 million, including local matching money, to install about 20 miles of water lines in and around the Decatur area.

Similar grants have been turned down before, and it is competitive with other Ohio communities, but grant writers are optimistic.

The state has asked for more information from the county, said Ralph Kline of the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization, which submitted the grant application on the county’s behalf.

The grant is ranked against other grants, but Lawrence should get more points for unhealthy water conditions due to the drought, Kline said.

The grant already seeks points for the damage the 1997 flood inflicted on the Decatur area’s water table, he said.

If the state approves the grant, water could flow to 254 homes on Lewis Fork, Turkey Fork, Deloss Creek, parts of Ohio 93, Fox Hollow, Prickley Ash, White Oak and Sharp’s Creek.

Hecla Water cannot do it without help, the county can only help through grants and that takes time, Patterson said.

"We realize what conditions are out there and we’re trying to use all the leverage we can," he said.

The county will urge state officials to consider the drought when reviewing the grant application, and perhaps Thursday’s tour will help accomplish that, Patterson said.

But Decatur residents still wonder if their promise of running water will be fulfilled, they said.

"I don’t know, they tell me it might be over a year before we get it," resident Virginia Blevins said.

"You can’t use our water. We have to use it for the bathroom, but it’s not fit for that. I want city water. I need it."

– Staff writer Melissa Scott contributed to this story.