Lessons learned on one year anniversary of water main break

Local News

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – It’s been one year since a massive water main break in Dayton, in fact the largest in city history, left thousands without water and even more under a boil advisory.

The city paid over $850,000 to fix the broken pipe that was partly underwater.

Recovery was a joint effort between both the city of Dayton and Montgomery County, and on this one year anniversary, the Montgomery County Environmental Services Director, Patrick Turnbull, said they have taken steps to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

Turnbull said the cause was a water main breaking down before eventually giving out.

On Friday, the Environmental Advisory Board’s Water Committee said at their annual meeting that they’re keeping a close tab on the city’s water department.

“We really want to understand what they’re going to be doing as far as looking at the infrastructure within the city of Dayton,” said Kathy Arnett, the Water Committee’s chairperson. “Where there might be other concerns or issues, and ask them to give us an update on that.”

Turnbull said both Dayton and Montgomery County’s water systems are old, but reinvestment is ongoing to improve the infrastructure. He said this was going on before the break but has increased since then.

He said part of that is adding additional elevated storage tanks in the system.

“While it wouldn’t provide water for consumption, if you have a large scale outage, that kind of delays depressurization that would happen or give you additional firefighting capabilities,” said Turnbull.

He also said during last year’s water crisis, they received help from other communities like West Carrollton, Miamisburg, and Vandalia, and now they’re looking into increasing that emergency support.

“They were able to feed us water to some parts of our system during that outage,” said Turnbull. “We are exploring additional interconnections like that in other parts of our system or additional communities so they can provide more water going forward.”

Turnbull also said a year later, the crisis management plan is still being updated.

He added that it’s never the exact same crisis a second time but that they’re better prepared for any water related emergencies in the future.

“In the late Fall, the city and the county held a joint emergency preparedness exercise around this sort of instance, and that was kind of the first effort to improve operational coordination during such a large scale water outage,” said Turnbull

He said part of that was learning recovery would take multiple days because of system updating and water sample testing.

“We have some great employees here and everybody wants to step up and answer the bell and help the community, but what we didn’t realize was how tired you get,” said Turnbull. “It seemed really simple and everyone wants to help, but you really have to set up a staffing plan that allows you to recover over a multiple day period.”

And finally, Turnbull said what confused many residents was the lack of a combined city/county map that showed the outage and areas under a boil advisory, and that they need to have a better internal communications plan between the city of Dayton and Montgomery County.

“We’re in the process of talking about ‘How do we build a more cohesive geographic information system so that we have great maps when we have such a water outage in the future,” said Turnbull.

An official with the City of Dayton told 2NEWS that the main break was caused by a change in environment due to construction on the Keowee Street bridge, and that the 36 inch water main was repaired and is currently in service.

They added that they identified additional measures with their partners such as the Miami Conservancy District to employ additional engineering studies, reviews, and field inspections, and will continue to conduct annual emergency exercises with major stakeholders such as Montgomery County to minimize water outages.

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