The Herald, Sharon,
PA Published Sunday, Sept. 26, 1999


Life back to normal after shock

All's well that ends well with water

By Erin Remai
Herald Staff Writer

It was on Sept. 25, 1998, just before 4 p.m. on a Friday, that the earth trembled, chimneys crumbled and knickknacks came tumbling off shelves, leaving Mercer County residents surprised and bewildered.

While the quake may be a faint memory to some people, residents in the northwestern part of the county won't be forgetting it any time soon.

More than 100 water wells located on a ridge between Greenville and Jamestown went dry or dropped in level shortly after the 5.2 quake on Sept. 25, 1998, leaving residents and businesses in that area without water. Fortunately, life seems to have returned to normal for most of the victims.

"We got ours drilled once last fall, and we've had water ever since with no problems," said Mike Allen, who lives on East Jamestown Road in Greene Township. Allen's well was one of many on East Jamestown Road that lost its water.

Nearby, the Greenville Airport also lost well water after the quake, but hasn't had problems since, said Bernice Julian, an airport manager.

"By the middle of November it got where it would come and go, and ... I would say by the last of November it became useless," Ms. Julian said. "We redrilled a new well a week later. We went down deeper into the old well."

Tri State Aggregate Supply Inc., also on East Jamestown Road in West Salem Township, lost its well water twice. The Herald reported on Nov. 19 that the business had to lower the pump in its original well before drilling another one.

Patty Reese, owner of Tri State, said recently that the business's new well has been working.

"We drilled a new well; everything seems to be fine," Ms. Reese said. "We've had no problems at all. We haven't had a minute to check to see if the old one came back."

A few residents experienced an opposite phenomenon: water flowing where no water had flowed before.

Lee Gill of Conneaut Lake Road in Adamsville, reported last October that the cut stone-enclosed spring in his yard, which had always supplied an adequate amount of water to his farm, was overflowing. Almost a year later, Gill reported that while many of his neighbors had to have their wells redrilled, he still has plenty of water.

"It's still overflowing, and it's going to stay that way," Gill said, noting that officials from the United States Geological Survey in Colorado studied his spring and an artesian well below his house.

"It's doing the same thing," Gill said. "It's alive."

Because of the widespread problem with the dry wells, Mercer County Commissioner Cloyd E. "Gene" Brenneman helped to establish the Mercer County Earthquake-Dry Well Fund at the Greenville Savings Bank. He quickly learned that many people did not have the money to redrill their wells.

"I went to state and federal agencies looking for money, but there was none available because there was no state or federal disaster declared," said Brenneman, whose own South Pymatuning well rose in water level after the quake.

Brenneman, along with state Sen. Robert D. Robbins, R-50th, Salem Township, and state Rep. Rod Wilt, Sugar Grove Township, searched for funding on their own before forming the committee, which Brenneman said was made up of a "cross-section of individuals," including township officials, contractors, ministers and local charities.

Soon after the committee was formed, calls started coming in from places as far off as Montgomery County in Pennsylvania and from New York. A church in Columbiana County donated proceeds from its Christmas dinner, Brenneman said.

In November, Brenneman and the committee presented the program to township and borough officials in the area. Brenneman and emergency management agency director Jim Thompson also presented a program to local service clubs. The Transfer Kiwanis donation of $500 was the first of the service clubs, following Brenneman's initial donation of $100.

Brenneman said the fund, which totaled about $15,000, helped drill 15 new wells, narrowed down from 83 wells in a concentrated area between Greenville and Jamestown. The committee gave the money on an as-needed financial basis.

"Some people had the economic capacity to move ahead immediately," Brenneman said. "I know of two situations of people who took care of their own wells and then donated money."

Ms. Reese, who helped with the fund as a member of the Transfer Kiwanis, said Tri State was able to drill a new well without financial aid. Allen started a petition drive in January to get aid from the federal government for new wells after he discovered that his name was not on the county's aid list.

"I sent all the stuff in, but I didn't get a response," he said.

So, Allen and his wife, Barb, took a different route to fund their new well: they wrote it off on their income taxes.

"We heard through the grapevine that through taxes you could get a write-off of some sort, so we took that route," Allen said. "We got between $200 and $400 taken off our income tax. It was part of our write-off for last year. I think a lot of people didn't know about that.

Mrs. Allen said she appreciated the public's cooperation during the period after the earthquake and that she wanted to thank Brenneman and Wilt for the work they did.

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Updated Sept. 27, 1999
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