Dayton to get $3.6M to add generators to prevent water outages

The city of Dayton’s Ottawa water treatment plant. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
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The city of Dayton’s Ottawa water treatment plant. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

The city of Dayton will receive a $3.6 million grant to add electric generators to its water system, which lost power after the Memorial Day tornadoes, resulting in a widespread water outage.

The city has invested in mobile generators the past several years. However, the grant, which the city is required to provide a $900,000 match, will allow officials to purchase “massive” permanent generators that will provide enough electricity to allow the water plants to pump 40 million gallons per day, Water Director Mike Powell said Thursday.

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The city will purchase multiple generators that will be placed in various facilities within the water system, he said, noting that officials opted for permanent generators during their review following the Memorial Day tornadoes.

“We always look at the lessons learned and see how we can apply things from any incident to help us to continue to build up the resiliency of the system for the future,” he said. “So, we try to make sure that we continue to improve the system to make it as robust as possible and as resilient as possible.”

Michael Powell. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
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Michael Powell. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

The U.S. Economic Development Administration is issuing the money, according to a news release from U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office.

“This investment will help support economic growth in the region,” Brown said. “This funding will support the improvement and reliability of Dayton’s water services to Montgomery and Greene County residents, and ensure these services are not hindered in the event of power loss or natural disaster.”

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U.S. Sen. Rob Portman applauded the U.S. Commerce Department and the EDA for awarding the grant, his office said in a separate release.

“This $3.6 million federal grant to purchase and establish new electric generators is great news for the city of Dayton as well as Montgomery and Greene counties,” Portman said.

The permanent generators will be added to the city’s Ottawa Water Treatment Plant, the Ottawa pump station, the Water Supply and Treatment Laboratory, and the Miami Water Treatment Plant. The treatment plants' generators will be capable of providing 1,000 kilowatts of power, and the pump station generators will produce 1,500 kilowatts of electricity, Powell said.

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Each plant is capable of pumping 40 million to 65 million gallons of water per day, depending on demand and other factors. So the generators will have enough power to allow the plants to produce a similar amount of water in case of another massive power outage, Powell said, noting that the city has about 88 million gallons of water in reserve.

Several years ago, after severe weather knocked out power at the city’s water treatment plants, officials started purchasing mobile generators annually as part of their capital improvement plan, Powell said. They outfitted each well field and certain buildings within the drinking water infrastructure with connections for the mobile generators, he said.

“We can move them from one well field to the other, one plant to another,” Powell said.

However, after 15 tornadoes ravaged the region on Memorial Dayton 2019, knocking out power to thousands of homes and businesses and the water plants, there were talks of installing permanent generators throughout the entire water infrastructure. But that would cost nearly $50 million, Powell said, noting that some of that cost would be passed on to customers.

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Instead, the city opted to take a strategic approach that would be less costly, and that’s why it applied for the federal grant to purchase the permanent generators, he said. It’s not clear yet when the grant money will be available to install the generators.

“I’m just really thankful that I’ve got the kind of staff that I’ve got, that could put together a proposal, and for it to get the kind of responses received from the EPA,” Powell said. “I’m going to put the funds to good use, and I’m going to do it as quickly as I humanly can.”