Fist-sized holes in a Fairfield water main lead to emergency repairs

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Combined ShapeCaption
The Seward Road water main replacement project began on Aug. 22, 2019, in Fairfield. Shown is prep work on Aug. 28, 2019. The water main from Symmes to Port Union roads will be replaced, and the project must be wrapped by Dec. 31, 2019. MICHAEL D. PITMAN/STAFF

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The water main on Seward Road wasn’t supposed to be replaced for another two years, but fist-sized holes in the 35-year-old waterline forced Fairfield to fast-track the project.

Crews are now working to replace three-quarters of a mile of waterline.

“We attributed the pipe failure, primarily, to the corrosive soil conditions in that area,” said Fairfield Public Utilities Director Adam Sackenheim.

Fairfield City Council approved fast-tracking of the project after 17 water main breaks in the past four years on Seward between Symmes and Port Union roads. Ten of those main breaks have happened in the past six to eight months.

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Sackenheim said failures at that frequency are “unacceptable.”

Fairfield City Manager Mark Wendling told City Council earlier this month the project will improve the city’s water service reliability.

“This project was identified as a priority in the city’s Water Quality and Criticality Analysisreport, due to the likelihood and consequence of system failure, and the increasing number of water main breaks in the project area,” he said at the Aug. 12 meeting.

The 4,500 feet of new cast iron pipe will be wrapped in polyethylene, which is a special plastic, and then surrounded by gravel in order to accommodate ground moving as it freezes and thaws, Sackenheim said.

When the water main breaks, it is “disrupting production” at some of the businesses along this stretch of Seward Road, such as Pacific Manufacturing, he said. Production was either limited or shut down until the repairs were made.

In March, a water main break in front of Pacific Manufacturing also buckled the roadway as around 500,000 gallons of water flowed onto the road over three hours.

The $860,000 project by Cincinnati-based Smithcorp will take 100 days to complete, which will put the end date around the end of November. Sackenheim the project must be completed by Dec. 31 because the ground will be frozen and will shift during the January and February winter months.

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“The number of main breaks increases in the really cold weather, so we wanted to have this project done before the weather gets really cold,” Sackenheim said.

Work will be done during the day, and two-way traffic will be maintained. But Sackenheim said when work gets closer to Port Union, crews will begin night and weekend work.

Including the Seward Road project, the city will have invested more than $2 million in underground utilities this year by the time 2019 ends. The city spent a collective $1.25 million on water main replacement projects on Donald Drive, Mack and Ross roads. These projects are on the heals of the $3 million water main replacement project on Ohio 4 in 2017.

Next year will most likely be a “planning year” for the city’s utilities department, Sackenheim said.

“We’re going to step back, re-evaluate where our problem areas are, looking at the likelihood of failure and the consequence of failure, and see where we need to focus,” he said.

Sackenheim said there’s a potential for utility work in 2021 at Winton and Resor roads, as well as “limited waterline work” associated with the Ohio 4 and Michael Lane/Camelot Drive intersection realignment project.

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