What Dayton is doing to reduce effect of water main breaks

Credit: Marshall Gorby

A 48-inch water main broke Monday, Aug. 4, 2020, in Dayton, spilling thousands of gallons of water into the streets at Keowee and Monument.

Credit: Marshall Gorby

The city of Dayton will focus on adding more redundancies to its Ottawa water treatment plant to ensure that the minimum number of people are affected in case of future water emergencies, Dayton Water Director Mike Powell said.

City crews started on that work Wednesday morning. Once that’s complete, the city will then analyze two pipes that burst Monday afternoon, causing a large leak that affected about 27,000 people, as well as determining how to repair those breaks, Powell said.

“Most people might be happy that we got the water flowing again and they may say we are fine. I’m not,” he said. “I still want levels of redundancy to that area. Maybe it’ll never be needed, but it’s there if we need it.”

The busted pipes ― 48 and 36 inches in diameter ― at Keowee and Ottawa streets affected people within the city and parts of Montgomery County. Many of those affected had normal water pressure by Monday evening. However, some complications within the system caused water pressure to remain low for customers in the southern part of the city in the Belmont and Patterson Park neighborhoods.

Explore‘Nearly catastrophic’ break a glimpse of vulnerabilities to area’s water

Crews spent most of the day Tuesday fixing the problem, and the water pressure was restored to normal levels for the remaining 10,000 customers that night. A boil advisory that was put in place Monday had been lifted for all areas by Wednesday evening.

ExplorePHOTOS: Major water main break floods portion of East Dayton, downtown

The water main break affected the city’s Ottawa water treatment plant, which services the southern part of the city. When the pipes busted, the city shut down the plant in an effort to isolate the break, and diverted water from its Miami plant to service customers in the low pressure area temporarily. Officials had expected things to be back to normal late Monday until they could get the Ottawa plant back on line.

Work continues on the water main break along Keowee Street Wednesday. The broken pipe was removed. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF
Work continues on the water main break along Keowee Street Wednesday. The broken pipe was removed. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

Credit:

Credit:

However, on Tuesday morning, customers in the Patterson Park and Belmont neighborhoods had significantly low water pressure. That’s because lines that feed a couple of elevated storage tanks also shut down along with the Ottawa plant, Powell said.

“Everything was fine until that isolation was complete,” he said. “But as people used the water, it just drained the system in that area until we could restore it. So the option was, do we open the system back up and put those areas back in service, which would not have been a great option because we were just going to have to shut it right back down again so we could excavate.”

The crews looked at the map of the network of pipes and came up with a plan to install a valve to allow them to shut off the water closer to the break that feeds those elevated tanks.

By late Tuesday, the Ottawa plant went back on line, relieving the Miami plant to continue servicing only the high pressure areas, he said. As they started to carry out the plan, they encountered “every problem imaginable.”

City of Dayton crews installed a butterfly valve on one of the water lines that busted at Keowee and Ottowa streets Monday afternoon./CONTRIBUTED
City of Dayton crews installed a butterfly valve on one of the water lines that busted at Keowee and Ottowa streets Monday afternoon./CONTRIBUTED

As they overcame the obstacles, and prepared to do the installation, the workers realized that the break was near a large box sewer, Powell said. Installing a traditional valve would be difficult and perhaps cause more problems. So they contacted Montgomery County, which had what’s known as a butterfly valve, and that was safely installed.

There are three pipes in that location that are 30, 36 and 48 inches in diameter, Powell said. While they’ve stopped the water flow from the busted 36 and 48 inch pipes, crews have not excavated the 48 inch one because it’s much deeper than the others, he said.

By late Tuesday, the Ottawa plant went back on line, relieving the Miami plant to continue servicing only the high pressure areas, he said, noting that running both plants is more efficient and less costly for the city.

By adding a third redundancy to the Ottawa plant, water would be pumped to the elevated storage tanks without minimal disruption to customers should there be another major water emergency, Powell said.

Dayton’s sewer maintenance building is located at the corner of Ottawa and Keowee streets, several feet from where the two pipes broke. Moments after an employee flushed a toilet in the building and noticed the low water pressure, David Shade, the city’s water utility field operations manager, happened to look out of his office window and noticed water bubbling out of the ground, Powell said.

“So he calls (Deputy Water Director) Aaron (Zonin) and I, and said, ‘I think we have a water main break. If we have a break here on something coming out of the pump station, it’s going to be big,‘ Powell said.”

ExploreNEW DETAILS: 2 pipes burst, boil advisory remains in effect after water main break

Shade’s prediction was right. Moments later, the water pressure started to drop dramatically, Powell said. Just then, crews were returning to the city’s maintenance building for the day, and the leak was starting to get worse as the streets flooded. So Shade asked them to assess the damage and within five minutes of him noticing the break, they started to isolate the leak in an effort to minimize the water loss.

“It was unprecedented,” Powell said.

It’s not clear at this time how much water was spilled, as the city is still working to make that determination. But when a 36-inch diameter pipe busted under the Great Miami River in February 2019, more than 150 million gallons were lost.

Several years ago the city started investing in its aging water and sewer infrastructure, as many of the city’s more than 2,000 miles of pipes have been in place since the 1800s. Commissioners agreed to spend $15 million per year to replace or repair 1% of the system’s infrastructure annually, with more than half the money going toward the city’s more than 800 miles of water pipes.

ExploreMontgomery County saw record water main breaks. How it will fix its aging systems

The city has at times exceed the 1% goal, Powell said Wednesday.

Each year the water department compiles a list of pipes to replace or repair, based on ages, history of leaks and many other criteria, he said, noting that the list is adjusted as needed. The two pipes that busted Monday were not on this year’s list because there’s not been any problems with them, Powell said.

But prior to Monday’s incident, they were elevated on the master list because of the score they received based on the city’s criteria and the fact that they are from the post WWII-era, he said. The city will now do an analysis on what it will take to repair the pipes and determined if the work can be done internally or if an outside contractor is needed, he said.

“I don’t know if corrosive soil was involved in this area or not,” Powell said, “but all those things would have played into when that main would be on the list for replacement.”