Donor supplies Clarksville water to Midwest WEST COUNTY -- Clarksville * Highland * Glenelg * Lisbon

FOR THIRSTY FLOOD VICTIMS, VINTAGE TARO

August 05, 1993|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

It was just last fall when Thomas Pignataro became disgusted at the sight of people selling fresh water for $10 a gallon to victims of Hurricane Andrew.

So disgusted was he, in fact, that he sent Floridians the first batch produced from his new business: 15,000 gallons of Taro Spring Water from the ground beneath his farm near Clarksville.

Yesterday, Mr. Pignataro repeated that act of generosity for flood victims in the Midwest, sending a tractor-trailer load -- more than 5,000 gallons -- to a Red Cross Center in Rock Island, Ill.

"I don't know what we would do without it, if people weren't helping us out this way," said Rose Sajak, director of public support for Quad Cities Chapter of the American Red Cross, which includes Iowa and Illinois.

Although the Quad Cities area has maintained its public water supplies, residents of rural areas have been warned against using well water.

"They don't even recommend that you brush your teeth with it or wash your hands with it," Ms. Sajak said. "I can't tell you how handy [donations] came in. We are so appreciative of anybody who has donated water to these families.

Mr. Pignataro said the thought of donating came from a television reporter from Florida who remembered his gift to hurricane victims last year.

"A channel down in Florida called me up and asked me, 'You donated water down here; are you going to donate it out in the Midwest?' " Mr. Pignataro said yesterday as a forklift rolled pallets of cardboard boxes, each packed with six 1-gallon jugs, into a trailer.

NB The question prompted him to tell his sales manager, Mark Bers

bach, to start the wheels rolling.

"I said, 'Mark, let's donate some water,' " Mr. Pignataro said, and in a few days, he had persuaded his largest customer, Baltimore grocer Valu Foods, to pledge one of its trailers, a driver and money to pay for a third of the shipment.

Two national corporations, Ryder Trucks and Amoco, agreed to donate a rig to pull the trailer and $250 worth of coupons to fuel it.

Driver John Serio of Westminster, who will be paid his normal weekly salary, also will be donating his own time to complete the two-day round trip.

"If it's helping somebody, that'll be great," said Mr. Serio, who usually delivers food and other items from the company's Baltimore warehouse to its 16 stores in the metropolitan area and Pennsylvania.

Representatives of the companies estimated that the donations were worth about $8,000.

The water likely will be distributed among rural residents north and south of the Quad Cities, said Keith Alvey, a spokesman for the American Red Cross.

"Basically, when the ground water got up to a certain point, it started picking up Mississippi River water and became contaminated," Mr. Alvey said.

It is ground water that some of those flood victims will be receiving as they try to clean up the Mississippi mud that has inundated their homes.

Mr. Pignataro showed representatives from the press, Valu Food and Amoco the tiny block buildings that protect the source of his Taro water and its collection equipment.

"Here is the spring," he said as he shut off one valve. With valves set, the white plastic pipe lets out a stream of water into the deep recess below the little building.

Normally, the water flows into a holding tank in a neighboring building. The water then runs out of the top of the tank into an overflow pipe that feeds a nearby stream.

Water for bottling is pumped from the holding tank to a 62-foot-high, 63,000-gallon stainless-steel water silo that serves as a landmark easily seen from Sheppard Lane.

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