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County lifts ban of burning; still urges caution

August 24, 2011

Tracy Zents

BROOKVILLE — Just a few days shy of the 30-day mark, the county-wide burn ban has been lifted.

Tuesday, the Jefferson County Commissioners lifted the ban at their regular meeting.

“The conditions have improved,” Director of Emergency Services Tracy Zents said. “The natural grass is starting to come back; it’s greening up again.”

Although the rainfall amounts have slightly improved, Zents urges residents to remain cautious.

At 2.1 inches — the county’s rainfall total average for July — this summer has been the worst since 2007.

From a total of 31 rain gauge watchers throughout the county, the high amount for this July was 3.35 inches in the Clear Creek area, to as low as 1.35 inches in the Hormtown area.

In July 2010, the county’s rainfall total was 4.264 inches, almost 50 percent better than this July. In July 2009, the total rainfall was 6.349 inches; in 2008, the total rainfall was 4.442 inches; and in 2007, it was 3.083 inches.

“As this is an improvement over prior months, we are still in a deficit where people need to watch their water supply and consumption rate,” Zents said. “The rainfall total is the lowest it’s been since 2007; that’s why we still urge people to use caution and conserve water.”

The high threat for land wildfires has also diminished, but Zents asks residents to avoid burning fires on windy days.

“It would be preferable to wait until it is is damp outside, or right after it rained, in order to keep everything contained,” he said. “Wind could also blow embers around and catch woods or grass on fire, as well.”

While the burn ban was in effect, Zents said residents took it seriously; however, the county is still in a drought watch, along with 40 other Pennsylvania counties.

A drought watch declaration is the first and least severe level of the state’s three drought classifications. It calls for a voluntary five percent reduction in non-essential water use and puts large water consumers on notice to begin planning for the possibility of reduced water supplies.

A drought warning asks residents to voluntarily reduce water use by 10 to 15 percent.

“With the hot, dry summer, our statewide monitoring network indicates a need to take this first step, which is aimed at alerting the public and water suppliers that it makes sense to take some voluntary, common-sense steps to conserve,” Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Mike Krancer said in a statement. “We recommended this to Pennsylvania’s Drought Task Force, and the members agreed.”

Individuals can take a number of measures around the home to conserve water, including:

• Install low-flow plumbing fixtures and aerators on faucets.

• Check for household leaks. A leaking toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water each day.

• Take short showers instead of baths.

• Replace older appliances with high-efficiency, front-loading models that use about 30 percent less water and 40 to 50 percent less energy.

• Run dishwashers and washing machines only with full loads.

• Keep water in the refrigerator to avoid running water from a faucet until it is cold.

On its Web site, DEP also offers water conservation recommendations and water audit procedures for commercial and industrial users, such as food processors, hotels and educational institutions.

Water conservation tips and drought information can be found online at www.depweb.state.pa.us, keyword: drought.

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