Feb 18, 2019

Undiluted Fluoride Release Triggers Lead Contamination in Sandy, Utah

While the do not drink advisory has been lifted, the town faces backlash for their failure to notify the public in a timely manner

Lead contamination discovered in Sandy, Utah
Lead contamination discovered in Sandy, Utah

A do not drink advisory was lifted in Sandy, Utah, for 600 residents who were cautioned not to use their tap water due to elevated levels of copper and lead. The contamination occurred do to an inadvertent release of undiluted fluoride into the town’s water system for approximately two days following a heavy snow storm. The town is facing backlash over its failure to notify the public of the potential contamination quickly.

According to The Deseret News, an investigation into the town’s water quality began Feb. 6 when residents reported a potential problem. The state was then notified Feb. 8. Approximately 150 residents reported possible symptoms from drinking contaminated water. Several dogs fell ill as well. While Sandy officials announced Feb. 15 that the water was safe to drink again, the do not drink advisory was reissued until lab results were able to determine the amount of lead and copper concentrations.

Test results from two homes revealed lead levels 26 times higher than the federal threshold and copper levels 22 times higher, according to Utah Division of Drinking Water Director Marie Owens.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll ever be able to know exactly what the homes were exposed to during the 44-hour time frame that the fluoride event was happening,” Owens said. “We can’t go back and retroactively sample that.”

While the do not drink advisory was lifted Feb. 17, many residents still have questions regarding the quality of their water. Residents are questioning whether they need to replace their pipes and copper fittings and have asked the town to test their drinking water.

“What condition are my pipes in right now? What condition is my water heater  in now that I’m not going to be continually exposed?” said Jodi Monaco, resident. “I just want to know. All of us just want to know.”

In response, the town is paying for water tests and asks residents to collect water samples. Sandy has been cited by the Utah Division of Drinking Water for failure to adequately notify the public about potential contamination. The agency must be notified of contamination within 24-hours.

“Once I became aware this was more than just a localized event, which was how it was presented to me originally… it was sort of an all-hands-on-deck approach,” said Mayor Kurt Bradburn. “We put everything out on social media. We activated our emergency protocol so we could literally take people door to door and make sure we spoke to them, gave them water, gave them notice. But the point is, we could have done that sooner. And that’s what I deeply apologize on behalf of all residents that we didn’t do that sooner.”