Changing weather has created ‘an ongoing nightmare’ of problems in Butler County

Rough weather causes craters on Central Avenue in Middletown.
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Rough weather causes craters on Central Avenue in Middletown.

Frigid temperatures, then snow, then torrential rain, then cold again this week has challenged with Butler County roads and water mains and presented other unique problems.

Jim Williams, Hamilton’s public works director, said the freeze and thaw rotation has “really caused havoc on our roads” because the material the city uses to fill the craters is “popping right out” so workers have to return to same spots, sometimes multiple times.

To complicate things further, it doesn’t appear the snow has finished falling for the season so they can’t remove the snow-fighting equipment on the 18 dump trucks the city uses, so they can’t be deployed with asphalt to fix potholes.

RELATED: Middletown hospital open, fully functional despite downed power line causing entrance closure

“We only have certain quantities of asphalt we can put down at this time,” Williams said. “Once we get out of the snow removal and salting operation, then we can have our full access to our dump trunks which would allow for more asphalt to be applied.”

He said Hamilton is using trailers to carry asphalt to fix the potholes now and are averaging about 400 craters per week, which is more than the average for all of 2018 and “ an ongoing nightmare.”

Tim Franck, the community services director for West Chester Twp., said there was an added level of difficulty this year because after the first freeze the roads didn’t thaw completely, and then the heavy rain came.

“The ground was saturated, and there was a frozen layer, so that water ran rather than soak in,” Franck said. “It overwhelmed some areas as far as drainage is concerned. Then you get cold weather again. The freeze/thaw cycle is very difficult on the roads. The slightest crack or imperfection on the pavement can allow a little bit of moisture to get in, and when you get the freeze/thaw cycle, that’s what causes those pot holes.”

The weather has caused other issues. Earlier this week, a tree fell on a school bus in West Chester Twp. during the torrential rains. Then Hamilton reported a landslide — officials have backed off that terminology saying the “top of the ground slid down the hillside a few feet” — on South B Street, and a water main break opened a crater on Third Street across from the power plant and Rumpke transfer station Wednesday.

Williams said part of the problem with the main break — crews had to dig 12 to 14 feet down and avoid Duke poles to do it — is aging infrastructure.

“This particular water main is due for a capital improvement project, it’s in the design phases and as soon as spring occurs it should be replaced. Preferably we would have replaced it a couple years back, but it is what it is,” Williams said. “Mother Nature exacerbates it.”

There were more serious issues elsewhere in the state. Hundreds of thousands of Montgomery County residents were under a boil order this week because of a water main break. Dayton officials said a leak that caused a widespread water outage and boil advisory throughout Montgomery County was located in pipes under the Great Miami River. Because of the location, the leak was difficult to locate.

RELATED: Montgomery County water outage: Leak identified along Great Miami River, boil advisory still in place

Hamilton sits along the same river, but Butler County Water and Sewer Director Martha Shelby said the county doesn’t have any infrastructure under water.

“We’re lucky in the fact we do not have any water mains under the river,” Shelby said. “We monitor our pump stations so if we see anything out of ordinary we would know if we have a potential break early.”

Middletown also has had its share of headaches, having to close Roosevelt Boulevard, the main thoroughfare through town to Interstate 75, twice. Scott Tadych, Middletown public works director, said heavy rain washed away some of the fill around a culvert, creating a void between the culvert of the pavement.

“It’s the weather cycle going from cold to snow to rain and back and forth is causing the ground to continually shift,” Tadych said. “It’s really just the weather, it’s as simple as that.”

The major expressways that run alongside Butler County have also been hit with potholes. Ohio Department of Transportation road crews have been working mainly nights — they respond immediately to really bad craters if they pose a danger — to repair, according to ODOT District 8 Communications Manager Brian Cunningham.

“We understand that it’s frustrating, it’s frustrating for us as well,” Cunningham said. “We get out there as quickly as we can, it’s just kind of a system-wide struggle with some of the roads that are older.”


Coping with changing winter:

400: pothole repairs per week in Hamilton

2,550: Tons of salt used this year in Middletown

People can track road work and conditions on the major expressways at www.ohgo.com and on county social media pages.