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Apr 18

Surprised by how City employees make a difference? (Part 1)

Posted on April 18, 2022 at 4:09 PM by Bryan Taulbee

City of Dayton employees perform a vast variety of jobs, including some that many residents are probably not aware of.  

All employees make a difference, but there is a group in Dayton’s Department of Water that I would like to shine a light on—a technical team at a little-known (but very important) laboratory at Dayton’s water reclamation facility. 

These well-trained professionals quietly go about work vital to the area’s environment and public health, at an out-of-the-way spot tucked into a bend of the Great Miami River at Dayton’s southern border. 

“Water reclamation,” by the way, is a somewhat-recent way of saying “wastewater treatment.” The importance of this work—making sure the outflow of sanitary waste treatment is sufficiently clean to enter the river, every day, all year—is matched by its complexity. With the increasing use of local waterways for recreation, “reclamation” (or re-use) is the right approach for your public water system to take. 

So, what exactly do the lab workers in the Division of Water Reclamation do, and what special abilities do they bring to their own brand of public service?

Laboratory staffing currently includes five jobs filled by employees specializing in instrumentation, bacteriology/chemistry, and a variety of technical analysis methods. These analysts are, in effect, the “eyes and ears” of the treatment process.  

They are certified to run a multitude of analyses to monitor for potential problems caused by substances and compounds we ordinary water customers would never think of:  metals such as cadmium and dissolved hexavalent chromium, plus suspended solids, cyanide, e Coli, and ammonia nitrogen, just to name a few.  

The names of some of these contaminants send me straight to Google for an explanation, but be assured, we do not want them entering our waterways at amounts considered potentially harmful by Ohio EPA or other health authorities.

For the past two years the lab team has also regularly sampled for the presence of the genetic markers of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in wastewater, a way of helping state health officials monitor the spread of COVID-19 in various localities. 

The team members maintain certification from Ohio EPA and other entities, reflecting the City of Dayton’s commitment to good environmental stewardship and our efforts toward operating the water reclamation facility efficiently to help keep water rates low. Water Reclamation Lab Team 2022

Water Reclamation Division management supports employee trainings and certifications required for this vital work. In fact, all five lab team members are actively pursuing Ohio Water Environment Association Voluntary Lab Analyst Certification, in addition to other credentials they have already earned. 

Recently, the City of Dayton recognized our own “Women in Water” who contribute in so many ways to providing safe, affordable water for approximately 400,000 users of Dayton water in the city and much of Montgomery County. We are proud to count Emily Mazur, Kimie Kilgore, and Britton Bauer of the water reclamation lab among these scientifically adept and publicly minded women. 

Photo: The self-named “mad scientists” at the Division of Water Reclamation lab (left to right): Emily Mazur, Britton Bauer, Kimie Kilgore, Jian Cao, Walter “Fritz” Schroder (lab supervisor).

Look for a tribute to another group of City of Dayton public servants in an upcoming edition of “City Manager’s Perspective.”