Thousands of Montgomery County residents and property owners have to boil their tap water before drinking or cooking because of problems that occurred Wednesday with the city of Dayton’s water supply that affected a second system operated by the county.
The city’s water system began experiencing outages and varying levels of pressure late afternoon because of a suspected water break or leak that led to the loss of millions of gallons of water within the distribution system, officials said.
“We know it’s unprecedented,” said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley. “We appreciate everyone paying attention to the boil advisory.”
Crews in the field were still checking water valves along major distribution lines and at river crossings late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning to try to locate break or leaks, city officials said.
City of Dayton spokesman Bryan Taulbee said there’s a very good chance the break or leak is at a river crossing given the amount of water being lost.
“Because the river is at a very high level from recent rain events and moving swiftly, it is also highly likely a break at this location would not be seen,” he said.
The distribution system has more than 1,600 miles of pipe, but crews are working hard to inspect the lines and identify and isolate the leak, Taulbee said.
The city of Dayton advises people to follow the boil water advisory as a precaution — but it’s not mandatory, Taulbee said.
Water should be boiled for at least 30 seconds prior to consumption or use.
More than 400,000 people in the area get their drinking water from the Dayton system, including 250,000 Montgomery County residents whose water is purchased from Dayton and distributed through a system operated by Montgomery County.
Dayton’s water service pumps an average of 75 million gallons a day, according to the city. The service area of over 65 square miles covers most of Montgomery County. In addition to Dayton, the system services customers in Brookville, Centerville, Clayton, Harrison Twp., Kettering, Miami Twp., Riverside, Trotwood, Vandalia, and Washington Twp. as well as other Montgomery County communities and parts of Greene County.
Water outages began being reported in northern Montgomery County late afternoon Wednesday, sometime around 4:30 p.m.
The partial water system outage affected thousands of customers in northern Montgomery County, including residents in Vandalia, Butler Twp., Clayton and Harrison Twp.
Butler Township police posted a message online saying the Montgomery County water department was aware of the issue and was working to restore service.
“Their phones are overloaded, so you will likely not be able to reach them right now,” the post read.
Rick Rose, Clayton city manager, said much if not all of the community is affected by water loss to varying degrees.
Some were already without water and those with pressure remaining may have little Thursday morning, he said.
“It’s just a matter of which water tower we are connected to,” he said.
He said the city will evaluate Thursday morning whether to set up water distribution points.
“We will wait to see what the morning brings,” Rose said. “I have a feeling we’re going to be without water.”
The outages also affected thousands of customers in northern Dayton, including areas north of Needmore Road, and parts of south and east Dayton.
At about 7:30 p.m., the city said Dayton and Montgomery County residents should avoid using water while the system undergoes evaluation.
The Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway had no water service, and neither did many residents, like Diana Fusch of Vandalia, who said it was very inconvenient for her family.
“I had just gotten home from work, went to turn the shower on and it’s just non-existent. It spluttered a tiny bit for a second and then just nothing,” she said.
“I guess we’ll be eating condensed soup that’s already made and baby wipes if we need to wash ourselves … luckily my family drinks bottled water,” she said.
Hours later, officials were still unable to identify the source of the troubles.
At 10 p.m., the city of Dayton held a news conference where Dayton’s director of water Michael Powell said the city and county water departments were working “feverishly” to identify and isolate the problem.
Close to midnight, city officials said the city’s water plants are pumping at increased capacity to try to bring the water system and elevated tanks back into service.
The city’s system has three pressure zones — super high, high and low. The high pressure zone is the affected areas, which includes northeast, northwest and southeast Dayton, Taulbee said.
Dayton crews will remain in the field until they locate the leak, and when they find it, they will come up with a repair plan, Taulbee said.