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Neon citizens are asked not to hoard water




Facing a water shortage that is already at the critical level, the City of Fleming-Neon is calling on residents not to make things worse by “hoarding water.”

Carlos Phillips, superintendent of the city’s water department, told the Fleming-Neon City Council Monday night he couldn’t guarantee how long the current water supply will last.

“We’re about out of water,” said Phillips. “It’s getting close. We are critically low in water reserves. We’re limited in how long we can pump from the main well or from the auxiliary well. But we are not out of water.”

Phillips said that while the main well can only pump for five to seven hours before the level drops to the point where the pumps automatically shut off, the water department can pump from the auxiliary well, too. He said there is no way to measure the level in the auxiliary well but it is obviously lower than usual.

“There is no way to measure the auxiliary well,” said Phillips. “But you can tell it is going down. There’s nothing anybody can do to make it better but to conserve water the best we can. Above all, don’t panic and draw down the tanks by filling jugs and other containers and hoarding water. That will just drain the tanks. You can’t hoard enough water to last.”

Phillips told the Fleming-Neon City Council this week that no mining activity nor anything else manmade had caused the wells to be so low. He said the shortage is sim ply the result of a long drought that has been gripping the region. Phillips said the region was still 16 inches behind on rainfall on Monday, and that since the city uses wells for its water supply, rain alone doesn’t do much good in the short term. He said it will take a long time for the water table to build back up by rain seeping into the ground and into the water table.

Phillips said that as long as the city has water, it isn’t in an actual emergency situation. He said he was told by Roy Benge, a former Whitesburg fire chief who is now area manager of the Division of Emergency Management, that unless the city actually runs out of water there isn’t much that can be done. Phillips assured the council that emergency drinking water will be supplied if the wells do run dry and again stressed the importance of people conserving water and not panicking.

Several council members expressed dismay that the city is already on “Plan B,” and doesn’t have a “Plan C.” Phillips told the council that when the city drilled a new deeper well in its main water source several years ago, it took a year just to get it permitted and that there would be no quick fix. The council voted unanimously to begin working with City Engineer Ken Taylor on a long-term solution which includes one or more other water sources.

Phillips also emphasized that there are no plans to cut off water to one or another section of the system and allow others to continue to use water. He said that wouldn’t be fair to users and that the decision of whom to cut off wasn’t one he wanted to make. Phillips said the wells do build back up after pumps are shut off for a while. He said the city treats an average of 244,000 gallons per day and the National Guard could not bring in anything like that much water in tanker trucks. He said the last time the Guard hauled water to Fleming-Neon it took three weeks to haul in 50,000 gallons. Phillips said it will be day to day until reserves start to build up again and it may get worse before it gets better.

“We are not out of water,” said Phillips. “But we are critically low and are subject to run out. We’re on Plan B and we don’t have a Plan C.”

Phillips said that because of the way the system works, it isn’t feasible to turn the entire system off for a while and then turn it back on. He said it would just waste a lot of water refilling lines and there would be no net gain. He said the best thing water users can do is hope for rain and to use as little water as possible. He suggested that people monitor water usage at home and not use water unnecessarily, make sure to do a full load of laundry or in the dishwasher, and to try to institute other water conservation measures.

“We’re in a critical state but there’s no way of telling,” said Phillips. “I can’t stand here and tell you that tomorrow we won’t be out of water. I hope we aren’t.”

Fleming-Neon Mayor Susie Polis said she has declared an emergency because the city is critically low on water supply. Like Phillips, Polis emphasized conservation.

“We’ve not had any breakdowns or anything like that,” said Polis. “We’ve been low all summer and we hope today’s rainfall will help. People need to conserve as much as possible. Make sure you do a full load of laundry before you wash and no washing cars. We need to use water only for things we really need to use it for. We’re asking people to really watch what they are doing for the next little bit.”

In other business at its December meeting, the council approved the first reading of Ordinance 12-10-07, which will keep the city in compliance with Federal Emergency Management Agency flood insurance regulations. Several members also expressed a desire to have City Attorney

Jimmy Craft of Whitesburg prepare an ordinance for water restrictions if they become necessary and to have Craft look over the FEMA ordinance before the council conducts the second reading in January. Craft was unable to attend the December meeting.

Council member James D. Collins said that council members and members of the Neon Days Committee were to get together at City Hall on Tuesday, December 11, to fix at last 300 candy and fruit bags to be handed out during the Christmas Parade. Council member David Vanover made a motion to include Mayor Polis in the annual incentive pay bonuses the council provides to other city employees. The vote to give Polis $250 in incentive pay was unanimous with Polis abstaining.


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