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Appalachia Facing Water Emergency

APPALACHIA - Today is a water emergency "D-Day" as Appalachia officials invade the Powell River to help liberate the town's reservoir from the clutches of a drought.

The town's mountaintop impoundment at the head of Ben's Branch was to be at or just below a 60-day supply by today, the first trigger of the town's water emergency policy, and that opens the bureaucratic floodgates to tap the river as a backup water supply.

"We can't put a shovel in the ground so to speak until we officially declare an emergency," Town Manager Fred A. Luntsford Jr. said Tuesday.

Town officials already figured Oct. 31 would meet the 60-day supply criteria, "so tomorrow is D-Day," Luntsford said.

Under the initial stage of a formally declared water emergency, Luntsford said residential customers who use more than 4,000 gallons per month will be charged an additional $5 per 1,000 gallons over the 4,000-gallon limit, and businesses will be required to cut back to 80 percent of their consumption based on the average use on the previous two months of water bills.

The town's emergency water use plan triggers even more restrictive consumption edicts at 30-day and 15-day supply levels, if and when that should happen. Tapping the Powell River, however, may ensure the critical-level restrictions won't need to be implemented.

Preparations are under way to pump water from the Powell River to at least maintain a decent supply in the reservoir, if not make incremental water level gains. Appalachia Waterworks Supervisor Jackie Pitts said the reservoir was 13.7 feet below the spillway on Monday, or roughly 35 million gallons.

Luntsford said Regional Health Department and Virginia Department of Environmental Qual- ity "stamps of approval" are poised for the formal emergency declarations by Appalachia, coupled with a twin declaration by Wise County emergency management authorities, to enable the Powell River solution to move forward and be eligible for state assistance.

Pitts said a mile and a half of temporary above-ground pipeline will be installed from the river "all uphill" to the reservoir. One submerged pump will be in the river, and another will be located about a third of the way up the Woodland Acres mountainside to achieve the task. Pitts said the system was implemented in the late 1980s and worked fine then.

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