BWD adds lightning protection at water plant

WELLSVILLE – Seeking additional protection from the unpredictable whims of lightning, the Buckeye Water District’s board of trustees voted to approve the purchase of equipment for the water treatment plant on state Route 45.

At the brief meeting, held Tuesday morning at the district offices on Clark Avenue, trustees unanimously approved the purchase of several lightning arresters from Adams Lightning LLC of Cincinnati. The total costs including installation will come to $40,863, to be paid out of the BWD general fund.

The district water treatment plant has been struck by lightning numerous times since it was completed in 2009, especially over the last couple of years. Past lightning strikes have caused expensive damage to the computer systems that oversee the plant’s operations, such as the transducers in the telemetry system, which monitor the level of water in the reservoir.

The most recent lightning strike last month overloaded and destroyed a $24,000 transfer switch, as well as causing additional damage to the computer system, prompting trustees to try additional safeguards. An insurance settlement on those damages is pending.

Board member Roy Dray explained although the plant has a network of lightning rods on its roof connected to deep grounding rods, they aren’t sufficient to protect the equipment inside the plant from the power surges that come with a lightning strike.

Following a lightning strike last summer, district workers installed ground-fault circuit interruptors, which protect the transducers but not other computer equipment in the facility. “It doesn’t cover everything,” Dray said. “The more protection, the better.”

Unlike a lightning rod, which merely channels the energy from an electrical strike into the ground rod, a lightning arrester behaves like a heavy-duty surge protector, limiting the amount of energy that gets channeled into a structure through its power, telephone and other external wiring. Dray said the arresters will be installed on all control panels, phone and Internet lines throughout the building.

Board members have stated that the plant’s location – in a clearing toward the top of a hill on state Route 45 – naturally leaves the building vulnerable to lightning strikes.