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Investigators Still Working To Assess Damage, Cost From "Unprecedented" Dayton Water Main Break


Crews are still working to assess the potential cost of a water main break earlier this week west of the Keowee Street Bridge in the Great Miami River that left thousands of residents without water or with low water pressure.

Montgomery County lifted its boil advisory Friday afternoon after results from multiple rounds of water quality sampling tests revealed no contamination.  

The city of Dayton has also ended its boil advisory.

At a press conference, City Manager Shelley Dickstein recounted emergency crews’ efforts to identify and isolate the leak.

It took 14 hours for them to stabilize the city’s water system.

“This break resulted in a rapid and massive loss of water in the system over a very short timeframe. In a matter of 10 minutes the system lost over two and a half million gallons of water the system quickly began losing excess storage in certain elevated tanks and began its draw on system reservoirs,” she says.

Investigators are still working to determine the extent of the damage before repairs can begin, a process complicated by higher-than-usual water levels.

"A water pipe break of this size could not have been anticipated and based on its location in the river was extremely difficult to find. The amount of water lost is close to four times our daily distribution to the entire system."

Dickstein credited close coordination between the city, Montgomery County and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, and the redundancy built into Dayton's two-plant water system, with helping to mitigate the crisis.

EPA spokesperson James Lee says the agency is continuing to evaluate the response to the water main break.

"After every emergency (drinking water or otherwise), Ohio EPA always evaluates what worked well and what could be improved so we are better prepared for the next emergency. Regulations require water systems to file “after action” reports to Ohio EPA, which we will review to make sure response was timely and effective, and to make improvements where needed," he says.

It's too soon to say how much water system restoration could cost.

Dickstein says customers would not likely see a rate increase as a result of water main break repairs, noting the city would tap its $15 million infrastructure reserve fund. 

The pipe that ruptured dates back more than 25 years.

But, Dickstein says age does not necessarily predict a pipe's risk for breakage.

"We take a look at the type of material, we take a look at the age of the infrastructure. And we also look at the break records. We know when an infrastructure starts losing its performance or starts have been impaired," she says. "And those are the ones that are the highest priority for us to go in and replace."

The Dayton Foodbank provided residents bottled water until late Friday afternoon. City and county health officials advised residents it could take a few more days for discoloration in the water to dissipate, recommending people run their drinking water tap for, "at least three minutes to remove any air bubbles, mineral build up, or lead that may have leached into pipes prior to use."

For assistance, residents are invited to call the Montgomery County helpline at (937) 781-2688.

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Jess Mador comes to WYSO from Knoxville NPR-station WUOT, where she created an interactive multimedia health storytelling project called TruckBeat, one of 15 projects around the country participating in AIR's Localore: #Finding Americainitiative. Before TruckBeat, Jess was an independent public radio journalist based in Minneapolis. She’s also worked as a staff reporter and producer at Minnesota Public Radio in the Twin Cities, and produced audio, video and web stories for a variety of other news outlets, including NPR News, APM, and PBS television stations. She has a Master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York. She loves making documentaries and telling stories at the intersection of journalism, digital and social media.
April Laissle is a graduate of Ohio University and comes to WYSO from WOUB Public Media in Athens, Ohio where she worked as a weekend host and reporter. There, she reported on everything from food insecurity to 4-H chicken competitions. April interned at KQED Public Radio in San Francisco, where she focused on health reporting. She also worked on The Broad Experience, a New-York based podcast about women and workplace issues. In her spare time, April loves traveling, trying new recipes and binge-listening to podcasts. April is a Florida native and has been adjusting to Ohio weather since 2011.