Plan in Place: Toledo Averts Water Disaster

Thursday, August 11, 2011 @ 02:08 PM gHale

Working everyday in a water treatment plant may not be the hotbed of action, but having a master plan in place and making sure everyone is aware there is a document that talks about how to handle emergency situations saved 500,000 water customers in the city of Toledo from having to boil its water for the next year or so.

Just shortly before 7 p.m. last Friday, a seal break caused four pumps bringing water from Lake Erie into the city to totally shut down. The pumping station had been delivering 85 million gallons of treated water at the time of the shutdown.

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“Friday night we lost service to our low service pump station which basically supplies all the water to our system,” said David Welch, director of public utilities. “At that point we had no water. We go right into the reserves.”

The water treatment facility operators manually shut down the plant and switched to a below ground storage reserve that kept delivering potable water to its customer base. From that point operators had a seven-hour window to fix the problem.

“Once we were notified my staff diagnosed the problem and realized we could fix it and at that point I didn’t want to panic anybody because we were already out of face,” Welch said.

Crews were able to examine, repair and restart the pumps in a little over three hours. Had they not, 500,000 city residents and every customer that Toledo deals with would have had had to boil their water for up to a year.

If workers had not been able to fix the system quick enough, officials would have to sanitize the entire pipe system, which would have meant a mandatory boil advisory because there are 1100 miles of pipe in the city alone.

City officials said the break in the seal was because of old age.

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