Attention to water and sewer continues infrastructure focus in Butler County: What’s the status?

The quality of the roads around Butler County ranges from “poor” to “good,” depending on which community a motorist is driving through, although what’s underneath the pavement is in better shape.

Leaders of Butler County’s Water and Sewer Department and Fairfield’s Public Utilities say the state of their water and sewer lines are in good to fair condition.

Fairfield Public Utilities Director Adam Sackenheim said Fairfield’s water and sewer treatment plants and sewer collection system are in “good shape,” but the water distribution system is in “fair shape.”

“Our water distribution system, a lot of it was installed in the late ‘50s and in the 1960s, and the material that was installed, this cast-iron pipe, is nearing the end of its useful life,” he said.

Fairfield has spent millions of dollars in recent years to replace water mains around the city, including a $3 million two-mile water line replacement project in 2017.

“We continue to see a high number of water main breaks year-in and year-out from this pipe that’s been in the ground now 60-plus years,” said Sackenheim.

Middletown is developing an Asset Management Plan for its water system, said Nakita Lancaster, assistant Public Works & Utilities director.

“This includes an assessment of all assets at the water treatment plant and in the water distribution system so that the city can prioritize future projects and investments,” she said.

Additionally, Middletown is finalizing its Risk and Resiliency Plan to ensure the water system is sufficiently protected from risks, including cyber attacks and power outages, Lancaster said.

“We have RedZone Robotics under contract to conduct a condition assessment of our sewer system,” she said. “This includes collecting video footage of the city’s sewers to identify pipes in need of rehab or replacement. This will allow the city to prioritize investments and proactively manage the sewer system.”

Cast iron is a problem for many older communities, but those pipes likely impact Butler County the most, which maintains water and sewer for much of the county.

For 2021, Butler County plans to replace 7,800 feet of cast iron mains in the Dutchland Woods area and 1,500 feet along Shafor Road in Liberty Twp., and will continue to replace cast iron pipes annually, “targeting areas which have the oldest infrastructure and prone to breaks.”

On the sewer side, Butler County will replace the 3,280 feet of gravity sewer along Port Union Road, and will continue to target inflow and infiltration removal projects to help reduce the amounts of clean water entering the sanitary sewer system.

“Due to the constraints of transporting biosolids, Butler County Water and Sewer is evaluating the design and construction of a biosolids dryer at our Upper Mill Creek Water Reclamation Facility,” said director Martha Shelby. “A dryer can reduce the tons of material at this facility produced by as much as 80% by removing excess water through evaporation.

Butler County has replaced nearly four miles of cast iron water main over the past couple of years.

Middletown is in year three of the 25-year Long Term Control Plan mandated by the U.S. EPA, and just completed the first project ― construction of a detention basin at Sunset Park ― required by the plan, Lancaster said.

Fairfield has a one-mile water line replacement project at Winton and Resor roads, which is a $1 million project. Sackenheim said they’re planning to do another mile of water line replacement from Ohio 4 at the bypass to Cresentville Road at the city’s southern border. This will be ahead of the repaving that stretches Ohio 4 from Seward Road to 400 feet north of the eastbound off-ramp at Interstate 275 in Springdale.

“We exist to provide 24/7 service to customers,” said Sackenheim. “When you can’t provide that water, it becomes a huge deal very quickly.”

Sackenheim said the city is looking to install new raw water well. The city pumps water out of the underground aquifer to the raw water wells before its treated at the water treatment plant. This would be the first raw water well since 1991.

The city’s water plant is rated to treat 9.1 million gallons of water a day, and it’s starting to exceed 8 million gallons in the summer months. A new raw water well, with a new high service pump to get the water into the water system, the city could be re-rated to treat 10 million to 10.5 million gallons of water a day.

“This would give us the capacity to continue to serve the city, and especially any potential new industrial growth,” Sackenheim said.

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