For more than half a century, Robert Pugh of Ralphton has hauled jugs of water from a well dug in 1911 to his tidy home.

A nearby spring and 182-foot well dug by families of coal miners have supplied the Pughs with water for drinking and washing clothes.

But, during the hot summer, little usable water can be choked from the spring. When rain is scarce, the water is cloudy or orange.

“This summer, we couldn’t use it. It was down too low,” said his wife, Mary. “I had to buy water at Wal-Mart.”

That could change for small towns looking to tap into the $23 million Quemahoning Pipeline, which is expected to be completed in 2007.

But some 50 homeowners in Ralphton, nestled on the border between Jenner and Quemahoning townships, aren’t sure whether they’ll be left high and dry.

The 18-mile pipeline is to flow water from the Que Reservoir to systems in Somerset Borough and Lincoln and Somerset townships.

Though the pipeline will be just 2 1/2 miles from the small village, it remains uncertain whether Ralphton and other small towns along the route will be connected.

Resident Leno Zanoni has been leading the charge to bring municipal water to the aging coal mining area, but with little success.

Zanoni said he and other residents — who have met with state representatives and county commissioners — have gotten sympathy, but little else.

For many years, the quality of the well water was good. Zanoni said contaminants from surrounding mines have slowly turned many residents’ drinking water orange, forcing them to turn to store-bought water.

Taping into the pipeline could solve their water woes.

“We’ve been battling this for years,” Zanoni said. “Now, with the pipeline, we’re hoping the situation will improve.”

Finding quality water for less populated areas is an ongoing battle for officials who represent rural communities like Ralphton. Families there have two options: Have a water tank installed on a hill by Jenner Township or tap into the proposed pipeline.

Either plan would mean a nearly $1-million investment and depend largely on grant money, said state Rep. Tom Yewcic, D-Jackson Township.

Not all families want municipal water, he said.

“They don’t want to tap in and pay the monthly bill,” Yewcic said. “It’s one of those things. Half the community is for it and half is against it.”

It’s unlikely Jenner Township will provide the community with water. The township buy its water from Jennerstown and resells it to its 280 customers making it hard to turn a profit.

“We buy and sell water, so we’re limited in what we can do,” said Nick Snitzer, secretary-treasurer of the township water authority.

“I wish we could do something to help them but we don’t have the money, period,” Snitzer said.

Still, Yewcic said he hopes to secure state funds for whoever would be willing to provide water to Ralphton.

“I don’t care what authority we have to deal with. If we need water to Ralphton, we should do it,” he said.

The pipeline could be the answer to the town’s water troubles, County Commissioner Jim Marker said.

“There’s no question about it. It as least puts the option there,” Marker said.

Patrick Buchnowski can bee reached at 445-5103 or

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