Large downtown water main break may cost city $1.4M

Keowee Street was closed to repair a water main break. MARSHALL GORBY\STAF

The city of Dayton is likely to spend more than $1.4 million to repair and reconfigure multiple water lines that failed last month, which resulted in customers experiencing low pressure and outages and placed thousands under a boil advisory.

Dayton city commissioners today are expected to approve a purchase order with Sunesis Construction Co. for water main repairs at Keowee and Ottawa streets.

On Aug. 3, a large main near the Ottawa water treatment plant burst, causing water to gush out, damaging one pipe and causing another to fail, city officials said.

The purchase order, which is recommended by the water department, will pay to fix one water line and relocate two others, said Michael Powell, Dayton’s water director.

The city hopes to put a space cushion between the lines that will stop one break from causing others.

“The city always looks for ways of implementing projects for continuous improvement throughout all utility infrastructure,” Powell said.

ExploreCity to make changes after large downtown water main break
A water main break involving a 48-inch pipe at Keowee Street and Monument Avenue affected businesses in the area. MARSHALL GORBY/STAFF

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Work is already underway on the project, and a 36-inch line near the site of the break has been repaired after suffering severe erosion, Powell said.

Once parts arrive, crews will begin relocation work on the other water pipes, which could take several months to complete, Powell said.

The break early last month happened in an area where three separate water distribution pipes operated close to each other. The city plans to realign a 30-inch pipe and a 48-inch line that broke to reduce underground infrastructure congestion.

Broken pipe was removed on Keowee Street. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

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The lines will be routed across Keowee Street, north of the break point, creating extra space between the piping to try to stop one break or failure from leading to others, officials say.

The Aug. 3 incident, the third large water service disruption in Dayton within 18 months, impacted about 27,000 customers, many of whom complained about outages or low pressure. The city also issued a boil advisory as a precautionary safety measure.

The 48-inch pipe was installed in 1951 and the 36-inch pipe was installed in 1926.

The larger pipe serves a low pressure system, including the downtown area, while the smaller line serves the high-pressure area, such as the southwestern neighborhoods of Belmont and Patterson Park.

The 48-inch line broke first, and water that flowed out apparently washed away the foundation supporting the smaller pipe, city officials said.

Changing soil, weather and environmental conditions can rupture pipes, and Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein has said it’s impossible to completely prevent all breaks.

However, Dickstein said the city has an “aggressive” asset management plan that invests $15 million to $20 million annually in its water plants and 800 miles of distribution piping.

The city regularly replaces aging and deteriorating infrastructure, reducing the likelihood of breaks, she said.

Since 2013, the water department has awarded more than 170 capital improvement projects for its water, storm and waste water utilities worth about $200 million, Dickstein said.

The city is exploring other new investments, such as senor technology that can provide early alerts when there are leaks to prevent them from turning into larger breaks, Dickstein said.

“We are especially focusing on using this technology on the mains that run along and under the rivers, and the large transmission mains so we can, in a more proactive manner, reduce the number of those kinds of breaks because they are the most disruptive,” she said.

There were no issues with the main that broke that would have prompted the city to replace it earlier, said Powell, the water director.

The city responds to about 100 water main breaks each year, and while every water system inevitably will experience disruptions, the city’s goal is to minimize the impact and duration,

The city always want to minimize disruption and restore service as quickly as possible in the safest and most fiscally responsible way, Powell said.

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