A Faulty Pump Put High Levels of Fluoride into City Water Supply

Following a fluoride pump malfunction in the water system, residents in Sandy City, UT, were told not to drink their water. Now, local regulators are faced with questions about what went wrong and why locals weren’t notified sooner.

Problems began Feb. 6, when a fluoride pump malfunctioned because of a power outage. It flooded parts of the water system with huge amounts of fluoride — which can cause health problems, plus the acidic fluoride also corroded pipes in some homes to release also-dangerous heavy metals such as lead and copper.

But it wasn’t until the city received complaints about taste hours later that it identified and fixed the problem. Workers handed out flyers in what it thought was the affected area, but did not leave flyers behind if residents weren’t at home. Then, it turned out the problem was much larger than first suspected.

In later days, the city started to receive complaints of health issues outside the small area — and the city realized it had affected thousands of homes. Eventually, the city did use social media, reverse 911, news media notification and sending ‘all hands on deck’ door-to-door to notify residents.

The drinking water ban was eventually lifted, but Sandy City still has some work to do to appease residents following the debacle. As part of the effort, local volunteers went door-to-door collecting water samples for the city to test.

A very expensive process of testing followed involving 200 samples taken citywide of which all but one came back with fluoride at “safe” levels.

A city-released computer simulation suggested that two zones of the city received the highest levels of fluoride. Actual test information was not available but the fluoride level in those areas “exceeded 10 milligrams per liter.”

The city commissioned an independent investigation and the put the public utilities director on administrative leave during the investigation.

Adapted from Utah City Recovers From Drinking Water Ban Caused By Fluoride Spill

Pure Water Gazette Fair Use Statement

Pure Water Gazette’s Moral to the Story: If you have a reverse osmosis unit under your sink, you don’t have to worry about malfunctioning fluoride pumps.