Boil water advisory over, officials still investigating cause

Free water distribution continued at The Foodbank in Dayton on Friday as the City entered its second day of a boil advisory after a water main break on Wednesday. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Free water distribution continued at The Foodbank in Dayton on Friday as the City entered its second day of a boil advisory after a water main break on Wednesday. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

Officials are still working to learn what caused a break in a water line on Wednesday that led to an unprecedented water outage across Montgomery County.

By Friday afternoon, the boil water advisory was lifted for all communities affected by the water emergency, which Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein described as “near catastrophic magnitude.”

It was the largest water outage in the city’s history and in a matter of 10 minutes, the system lost over 2.5 million gallons of water.

“A water pipe break of this size could not have been anticipated and based on its location in the river was extremely difficult to find. The amount of water lost is close to four times our daily distribution to the entire system,” Dickstein said.

While the boil water advisory is over and water is safe to drink, customers may see cloudy or murky water due to air trapped in the system, but this should dissipate in the coming days. Customers can run their water to help flush out the system and the trapped air.

The water system serves not only the city of Dayton but a total 400,000 customers in Montgomery County. The outage and water pressure problems, which started Wednesday evening, caused widespread disruption, closed schools and businesses and forced many residents to buy bottled water or to boil tap water before use.

Cargill Inc. — the city of Dayton’s largest water customer in 2018 — was not operating its Needmore Road facility on Thursday as a result of the water issues. The wet corn mill uses about 3.5 million to 4 million gallons of water daily.

Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton had temporarily switched to giving patients bottled water to drink as a precautionary measure during the boil water advisory. While the advisory has been lifted, as a precautionary measure, the city of Dayton will be performing water testing on site over the next three days, said a hospital spokeswoman.

“We understand the serious impact this event had on all of our customers in Dayton and the greater Dayton region, including our industries, large and small business, restaurants, and residents — especially the medically infirmed, immune compromised and our elderly,” she said.

The cost to fix the problem is not known at this time but Dickstein said the water system has saved up reserves for emergencies so it can make investments while avoiding an undue burden on rate payers.

Dickstein said as the regional water supplier, the city does not take the public’s confidence for granted. She said the utility service will continue to invest about $15 million annually into the water system.

The leak was identified at 1:30 a.m. Thursday along a 36-inch main. The specific location of the leak has not been disclosed for security reasons, though was near the Great Miami River.

Heidi Griesmer, spokeswoman for the Ohio EPA, had said state environmental officials have been providing oversight and technical assistance to the city of Dayton and making sure Ohio drinking water regulations are followed.

The Red Cross said it helped with the distribution of 1,620 cases of water combined between the three sites in the county.

Dickstein praised the multiple crews who were able to mitigate the water emergency and then re-stabilize the system within 14 hours. She said staff accelerated sampling protocols, which led to a shorter boil water advisory than first expected.

“Teams worked against the clock to stabilize the system as expeditiously as possible, which was difficult given the conditions,” she said.

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