Broad Spectrum

A commitment to sustainability and resource conservation underpins all aspects of operations for the City of Dayton Water Department.
Broad Spectrum
Lime Plant Crew 2012

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The City of Dayton (Ohio) Water Department takes a broad approach to creating a sustainable water supply and community. It ranges from diligently protecting source water against contamination, to recycling residuals, to conserving energy and reducing carbon emissions.

“The department is committed to providing a safe water supply,” says Michele Simmons, environmental manager for the city. “Surrounding the region’s wellfields are early-warning monitoring wells that keep a watchful eye over our regional source water.”

The department has a proactive, multi-jurisdictional Source Water Protection Program designed to spur economic development with groundwater-friendly businesses in the region’s wellfield areas. The program, which works to protect groundwater through pollution prevention, is a model of regional cooperation. The cities of Huber Heights, Riverside, Vandalia, Harrison Township and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base have all adopted programs parallel to Dayton’s.

Vital to development

Dayton, on the Great Miami River, gets its drinking water from the Great Miami Buried Valley Aquifer, which is naturally filtered and continuously replenished. The aquifer is the largest and most prolific groundwater system in Ohio and one of the largest groundwater systems in the country. Dayton depends on high-volume wells and last year treated and pumped 24.6 billion gallons to more than 400,000 residents of Dayton and Montgomery counties.

Water is vital to the city’s economic development and enhances the quality of life, work and play. Dayton has applied protective strategies essential to the long-term viability of the drinking water supply, recreational interests, core-city revitalization and regional economic vitality, according to Simmons. The program includes zoning, groundwater monitoring, groundwater remediation and emergency preparedness.

In 2013, the city received a Gold Award for Exceptional Utility Performance from the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA), honoring its operations and management practices. It has also received national recognition from the Groundwater Foundation as a Groundwater Guardian Community.

In addition, the water department has established a leadership development program for its 400 employees. A Water University offers skill enhancement and professional development. The utility also conducts outreach to local college students and operates an intern program.

An annual Children’s Water Festival, offering groundwater and environmental education, has drawn more than 26,000 attendees. “In 2013, more than 1,600 fourth-grade students and 68 teachers from 28 area schools were educated on topics such as groundwater, surface water, land use, pollution prevention, wetlands, environmental stewardship and recycling,” says Simmons.
In keeping with a commitment to collaborative partnerships, the department is a member of the Dayton Regional Green (DRG3) program, established in 2013 to promote sustainability for residential, government and commercial areas. “The DRG3 offers Green Business certification through a voluntary program to companies that adopt basic green measures to reduce their ecological footprint, reduce energy and resource use, and save money,” says Simmons.

Productive recycling

One of the department’s most effective programs is lime calcinations recycling, launched in 2008. Dayton’s water plants use hydrated calcium oxide (lime) to soften well water. The reclamation process eliminates the need to dispose of softening residuals. The materials, mainly calcium carbonate and magnesium hydroxide, are pumped to a lime residuals recycling plant that treats some 56,000 tons per year.
A natural gas burner heats a rotary kiln and converts calcium carbonate to calcium oxide, resulting in a finished product of pebble-sized granules that can be sold as a soil amendment. Besides processing its own residuals, the department contracts to treat residual material for two other communities. Processing a higher volume increases per-unit energy efficiency.
The department looks for additional opportunities to treat residuals on a larger scale. In 2013, Dayton imported 5,600 tons of residuals. “We are looking at expanding the lime kiln treatment plant,” says Keshia Kinney, water treatment technology supervisor. “We want to make it more of a regional recycling project.”

Energy and carbon

Dayton is committed to reducing its carbon emission and energy consumption. In 2011, the water department completed a performance contract that included an assessment of its baseline energy usage. The city created a greenhouse gas emissions inventory and carbon footprint from data on energy (natural gas, electricity and fuel) used in city facilities and fleet vehicles from 2006 to 2011. That helped identify opportunities to save energy through efficiency practices such as lighting and HVAC upgrades and replacement of older pumps with more efficient units. 

As one example, the utility in 2007 installed SolarBee mixers (Medora Corporation) inside its above-ground water tanks. The solar-powered mixers consist of a brushless motor, solar collectors and a digital control system outside the tank. A light on top of the tank indicates when the mixers are in operation. “The solar mixers significantly reduce the demand for purchased electricity,” says Kinney. “They are cost-effective and help promote public health by circulating the water.”

The department also looks to reduce electricity costs by pumping water during off-peak hours when rates are lower.

In all its operations, the department takes a forward-thinking approach to water services, supplies and treatment, and environmental protection. “We have a precious resource with the Great Miami Buried Valley Aquifer and the river network,” says Simmons. “As a steward to our environment, we resolve to do what we can to protect our most valuable natural resource — our water.”


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