Emergency Preparedness FAQ
Q: Is Dayton water really prepared for an emergency, like the tornadoes experienced in early 2019?
A: Absolutely. The first half of 2019 brought two of the biggest challenges we’ve encountered: The water main break and the tornadoes that caused water outages and prompted us to issue boil advisories. But we were prepared for each event.
Each Dayton water treatment facility has Emergency Response Plans to address all types of emergencies. We update those plans annually – that’s an Ohio EPA requirement. Then, we go beyond requirements and conduct annual emergency exercises, practicing for natural disasters and other catastrophes. These exercises have included community partners such as Public Health Dayton-Montgomery County, Ohio EPA, businesses, universities, and other City departments including Public Works, Police and Fire. Case studies of actual events from other water utilities are used to test the capabilities of our water system and evaluate our response under similar conditions. In addition to actual events, we test the system’s resilience with simulations, including for example: man-made disasters, natural disasters, cyber-terrorism, etc. The lessons learned from these exercises are used to improve operations. By simulating emergencies, in detail, we prepare for the real thing.
In response to the tornadoes, the Ohio EPA praised our efforts, and our insurance company called it “beyond impressive” that service was restored within 24 hours.
And, while we can’t guard against every natural disaster and catastrophic event, we do plan for the unthinkable, practice how to respond and exceed best practices across the water industry for backup power to our water plants.
Q: What is redundancy and how does redundancy work?
A: Redundancy refers to duplicate systems that minimize potential service interruptions to our customers. For example, a solely independent back-up source of electricity would be a redundancy if the loss of electricity from the main source shut down a water plant.
The City of Dayton has built-in redundancy in its water system including:
- Two separate water treatment plants. Each treatment plant has an independent pump station that can support the entire system’s demand. It should be noted that each plant independently has the capacity to meet the region’s current need.
- Two independently operated well fields that have sufficient capacity to operate fully. For instance, the City has over 100 drinking water wells with less than half being utilized at any one time.
- We have primary and secondary electrical feeds to each plant, pump station and well field. We also have backup generators that can be deployed to strategic locations during an emergency, if needed.
Q: You say we don’t need even more generators for the water plants because these emergencies are so rare. But just last year we’ve had two such emergencies. So, are they really that rare?
A: Yes. Since 1954 – 66 years - the City has had only two service disruptions, including a system wide boil advisory. Both happened in 2019. And even though these are rare occurrences, we were prepared for both of these extraordinary challenges. We acted quickly and got our systems back on-line in short order. We were able to do this because of our extensive emergency training and resources.
Q: Were the two events, the 2019 water main break and the tornadoes, the result of poor maintenance or operations of our water facilities?
A: No. There were no indications of improper maintenance or operation of water facilities for either of these events. The tornadoes, of course, are a natural disaster. We believe the water main break resulted from construction work being done on the Keowee Street Bridge by a contractor working for Montgomery County.
Q: Does Dayton have additional resources it can call for help if it cannot handle an emergency on its own?
A: Yes! Dayton is a member of Ohio WARN. The Ohio Water/Wastewater Response Network includes water and wastewater utilities across Ohio and serves as a mutual aid organization during emergencies. We used Ohio WARN immediately after the tornadoes and the equipment and staffing help we got was invaluable. Ohio WARN membership allows us to leverage the power of nearly 100 utilities in Ohio and get access to equipment, including generators, without huge one-time outlays of cash for equipment that may never be used. And if a resource we need isn’t available in our state, Ohio WARN can get us help through the National WARN network.
Our emergency response planning, disaster simulation practices, the backups on our systems, use of WARN and a lot of hard work allowed us to quickly recover and get back to supplying you water after the tornadoes. We were praised by both the Ohio EPA and the insurance company that writes our policy for our quick restoration of water to the communities impacted.
Q: Was the City really prepared to fight a fire when the water supply was down from the tornado?
A: Yes. Eight water tankers were brought in and strategically located throughout the region to provide a water supply for crews as needed during fire suppression activities. Each of these water tankers carried 3,500 gallons of water that complemented the 500-750 gallons of water carried on each fire engine. Additionally, we added staff and equipped two fire engines with the tools and appliances necessary to draw from water sources, such as ponds, rivers and lakes. When dispatching for emergency calls, the Regional Dispatch Center would include requests for any of these additional resources needed for each response.
Q: How much experience does Dayton have maintaining a water system?
A: For 150 years, we’ve been managing the wells that supply the water you drink and use. We have learned year after year how best to treat drinking water and wastewater and manage storm water.
Q: Just because you’ve operated a water system for a long time doesn’t mean you’ve operated it well. How do I know you are operating a high-quality system?
A: We work hard every day to keep our water safe – and that’s been recognized by independent agencies and organizations. We are extremely proud that the Ohio EPA has recognized that we have “one of the most comprehensive source water protection programs in Ohio, including several hundred monitoring wells to investigate and track potential contamination.” And we have won numerous awards for our operations. For the 25th consecutive year in 2019, we have been designated by the Groundwater Foundation as a Groundwater Guardian Community – a community that successfully educates the public and protects groundwater.
Q: I’ve heard Dayton refer to SCADA. What is SCADA?
A: Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) is a system of software and hardware that allows us to:
- Control water treatment and well field processes locally or at remote locations
- Monitor, gather, and process real-time data from devices such as sensors, valves, pumps, motors, etc.
- Maintain a record of events
SCADA systems are crucial for our water treatment plants since they help to maintain efficiency, process data for smarter decisions, and communicate system status to help minimize process disruptions.
Q: I’m worried that our water is not safe to drink, that there are chemicals leaching into the water and that Dayton is just not telling us the whole story.
A: We understand your concerns. So, here is what the experts have to say. The Ohio EPA describes our drinking water quality in one word: Excellent.
Q: That’s great, but what does that mean? How do we KNOW the water we get meets all standards and is high quality?
A: It means all of our water treatment plants operate at the highest level of OEPA certification and our water meets all federal and state regulatory requirements.
The City samples above and beyond regulatory requirements to ensure that the water our customers use meets or exceeds all drinking water standards for quality.
Q: How often does the City sample the water?
A: Our water distribution system is canvassed daily, with analysts collecting about 10 samples from different locations throughout the area. In addition to the samples collected across the system, water treatment plant employees perform process control testing every two hours around the clock.
Q: How does testing work and how long does it take?
A: The U.S. EPA has developed testing protocols and we have worked closely with the Ohio EPA to ensure we are following those procedures so that samples are collected without introducing external contaminants (such as sunscreen, cleaning products, bug spray, food packaging, etc.). These samples are sent to an independent certified laboratory for analysis. Results are generally available in 6-8 weeks. These results are then shared with the EPA and key stakeholders.
Q: Can I see the results?
A: Absolutely. All of our testing results are available to the public upon request.
Q: What if I want even more information about our water supply?
A: You can review a more comprehensive FAQ here: PFAS and Drinking Water