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Water task force calls for new taps

County and township leaders want at least seven frost-free water taps at public places in drought-stricken areas to meet the public’s demand for safe drinking water during the next year.

Thursday, August 26, 1999

County and township leaders want at least seven frost-free water taps at public places in drought-stricken areas to meet the public’s demand for safe drinking water during the next year.

Trustees, Emergency Management Agency staff, commissioners, firefighters, the Red Cross, grant writers, ham radio operators, farming groups and local water companies made that announcement Tuesday night as the county’s new Water Management Task Force.

Dry weather depleted well water supplies in most northern townships this summer and sent the government scrambling to fill the void with more than 10,000 gallons of donated water, Lawrence County Emergency Services director Don Mootz said.

Now, that water supply is dwindling and the task force is meeting to develop long-term and short-term solutions.

"We gave out our last gallon of water about an hour ago," Mootz said Wednesday afternoon.

"But I think we’ve come up with something that will work (water taps) and we will have it working in a week or two," he said. "Our initial concern is drinking and cooking, because anything else is more than our agencies can handle."

The water tap plan now centers on organizing locations and manpower to give out the drinking water.

Decatur, Symmes, Mason, Elizabeth, Aid, Hamilton and Windsor township residents need the most help, Mootz said.

EMA staff have recorded 100 families without water in Symmes Township, more than 100 families in Decatur, 70-80 in Elizabeth and about 14 in Hamilton.

"And remember, these are only the ones we know about," EMA deputy director Mike Boster said.

The task force’s goal is developing one common plan to address immediate water needs, then share resources and work toward that goal, Boster said.

Tuesday night, task force members came armed with ideas about procuring additional bulk water containers like the two 450-gallon tanks the county bought in July.

But discussion led trustees and most task force members to favor drawing from public water systems at public locations.

"If we can tap into some funding, put frost-free taps out and eliminate tanks and health concerns, and set specific times, that just leaves the issue of how to pay for the water," commissioner George Patterson said.

Task force members speculated the total cost, including the frost-free taps and labor, will hit around the $10,000 mark.

Paying for the water will be negligible, since it will be managed and given only to those in need of safe drinking water, they said.

The county could apply for emergency dollars in the form of a state "imminent threat" grant said grant writer Ralph Kline of the Lawrence County Area Community Action Organization.

Kline already has spoken with state officials about the grant.

"The state would entertain an application," he said, adding that such grants in the past have taken as little as a day to win approval.

Commission president Bruce Trent said the county will consider applying to fund the project.

Trustees are gathering more information on locations for the taps. At least two townhouses and several fire stations already have public water.

The task force also might ask some community organizations, churches or schools for help.

Water companies like Hecla Water and Lawrence Water are assisting with the plans.

Remaining questions include who will staff the drinking water stations and how can the county avoid future drought-related problems.

"If we set up a site, it must be managed," Boster said. "And the long-term solution obviously is new water lines."

Hecla Water officials discussed plans for new lines, which rely upon grant funding.

The task force will meet frequently to brainstorm about such permanent solutions and to keep the tap plan on track, Mootz said.

The next meeting will be 6 p.m. Wednesday at the EMA office on Park Avenue in Ironton.