'Water buffalo' a good day's catch for Fish Springs residents
By Kathy Helms-Hughes

   Not every catfish that finds its way to Fish Springs brings along its own water. But one did Tuesday. And it was the catch of the day for local residents.
   According to Carter County Emergency Management Agency Director Jim Burrough, Kyle "Catfish" Ingles and Curtis Davis of Washington County/Johnson City Emergency Management Agency arrived at Big D's Country Store in Fish Springs around noon, toting along a "water buffalo."
   "That's a big white tank where they can take their own buckets and stuff and get water out of it. It's parked right there in front of the business under a big street light and anybody that's up there that needs water is welcome to it. If it gets empty, then Elk Mills [Volunteer Fire Department] can drive down here and fill up -- they've got a brand new tanker -- and can haul it up there and fill it back up," Burrough said.
   Elk Mills Fire Chief Eddie Clawson already has volunteered for the task, he said. "I was going to call him, but he beat me to it."
   Water contained in the 400-gallon tank is for household use and NOT for human consumption, he said.
   Burrough and his crew of helpers also brought along boxes of drinking and cooking water left over from last year's flooding and resulting drinking water advisory in Elizabethton.
   "We're about out," Burrough said, "but as long as I've got it, whoever needs it is welcome to it."
   Burrough said some of that water was delivered to Fish Springs Convenience Store and to Little Milligan Elementary School, where Principal J.R. Campbell will distribute it.
   "The water at Little Milligan, I'm asking them to just use it for drinking and cooking. You can't water flowers and flush commodes with it; it won't last long," he said.
   "I try to stress for people to keep at least a three-day supply at their house. Everybody needs to be self-sufficient for 72 hours, which is three days, without electricity or without water," Burrough said.
   Besides Fish Springs and Elk Mills, residents in the Dry Hollow and Bob's Hollow sections of Stoney Creek also are suffering from water shortages due to drought conditions. "The water is coming back, but they're not drinking it yet. It's not good clear water," Burrough said. "They've got some water in their lines, but as far as back up to normal, no it's not."
   Burrough said water delivered a couple weeks ago by Carter County Jail inmates is still available for residents in those areas.
   Danny Duffield, owner of Big D's, said numerous residents in Fish Springs are out of water. "About all of them that gets out of the Hamby Branch -- it's dry. The others are awfully low."
   Duffield said that during Johnson City's recent water line break a major portion of the town was shut down due to lack of water. "Up here, that's just a common thing."
   Duffield said people ask, "Why don't they have a well dug?"
   Some residents have tried that, he said, citing 90-year-old Retha Campbell as an example. "Retha has had two wells dug," he said. "But before Watauga Lake was built, there were a lot of springs that run out down in the hollows. The lake is up over them, so it's pushing the lake water back up in them. Actually, they're being contaminated by the lake. So a well doesn't always mean you'll have safe water. Some of them have had wells dug and they still can't use them."
   Another local resident, Kyle Campbell, also had a well dug, Duffield said, "but it was no good. It was muddy. Even at our house, we had a well dug and it lasted several years and then all of the sudden, I guess from [seismic activity], all of the rock got busted and there was no way they could filter it out. They had the factory man down and he said even the biggest filter they made could never actually take care of it. We had to have another well dug. But we had to go like 500 feet to get water. Everybody isn't able to do that," he said.