Purcellville last week received a $700,000 community block grant through the state office of Housing and Community Development to aid the town in improving its water system, a long-planned project expected to cost $1.5 million.

"It's better than Christmas," said town manager Gordon Jones, adding that the town must still find ways to finance the remaining costs. Purcellville has engineering plans "95 percent complete" for the three main projects, Jones said.

These are: building a 200,000-gallon water storage tank near Loudoun Valley High School and laying transmission lines from the present main at Rte. 690 to the new tanks, constructing a cover for the million-gallon storage tank on Short Hill Mountain, and building a water treatment plant with a capacity of 500,000 gallons a day. The town, which currently treats its water with chlorine and lime, does not have a water treatment plant, and it has been under a state mandate since 1975 to build a plant.

Jones said the new system, expected to be completed within two years, will enable the town to provide water to nearby towns and handle its own water needs far into the future. The grant, he said, "makes the improvements affordable, so it won't be that we have to have growth to pay for it."