Water Quality Q&A Updates

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Testing

All Sandy City water is now safe to drink. This decision was made in consultation with the DEQ, Salt Lake County Health Department and the EPA. We understand citizens have numerous concerns  and questions. We're here to answer. Below is a compilation of the commonly asked questions we've answered in regards to the fluoride incident that occurred in February 2019.                                          Please contact us at 801-352-4400 or 801-568-7280 if your question isn't included.

General Information

Q- What’s the current status? A quick overview...
  • As of February 17, 2019, the No Drinking Ban was lifted. Water in Sandy is safe to drink, as has been confirmed by several hundred certified tests. You can find those here: https://sandycity.chemtechford.com/.

  • Now, we continue to test the homes of residents who have requested it to ensure the fluoride didn’t cause any additional problems in their home piping. You can request testing for your home here: http://sandy.utah.gov/water-testing.

  • We are working with citizens to help with any incurred costs or ramifications from this issue. You can submit a claim here: https://sandy.utah.gov/claims and we will automatically be applying a $25 credit to the water bills of those living in the affected area.

  • If you are looking for more information, test results, news items, and feeds of the town hall, start here: https://sandy.utah.gov/departments/public-utilities

Q: What happened?

A fluoride pump malfunctioned at one of Sandy City’s wells near the intersection of 1700 East and Dimple Dell Lane. Initial models and resident contacts indicated fluoride entered the water system impacting approximately 50 homes. Once the city’s Public Utilities Department discovered the failed equipment on Thursday, February 7 at 2 p.m., they immediately closed valves to isolate the area (approximately 11026 South to 11125 South and 1850 East to 1950 East). Crews flushed the drinking water line, notified the State of Utah and the Health Department, and went door-to-door to notify and instruct customers to flush their water systems.

By that afternoon, approximately 4 p.m., the city’s water systems were back to normal fluoride levels. The city continued monitoring the situation and discovered other homes outside the initial designated affected area may have also been impacted. Additionally, lab test results from February 7th’s sample of a few homes came back on February 15th indicating high levels of copper and lead. Therefore, we expanded the affected area flush order to ensure the absolute safety of the residents. That area included 10600 South to 11400 South and 700 East to 2000 East. We discovered that copper and lead were coming from pipes in some individual’s homes due to the fluoride’s corrosive effect, but there was not a copper or lead problem at the city level. There are no lead and copper pipes in the city's water system. On Sunday, February 17, the No Drink Order was lifted for all affected zones. We have continued to test homes that have requested it to ensure there are no metals being leached into homes. You can request that testing here: http://sandy.utah.gov/water-testing

Q: What now?

If you haven’t flushed your water in the affected area, do that first. Please run EVERY TAP IN YOUR HOME CONCURRENTLY for a total of 60 minutes. Start with hot (for 30 minutes) followed by cold (for 30 minutes). Empty ice trays from refrigerator. Now you’re water is safe to drink! If you are concerned about your pipes, you may request testing here: http://sandy.utah.gov/water-testing

Q: What led to high-levels of copper and lead?

Q-

Where did the high levels of lead and copper come from? Is this still a concern?

A-

The city's main water system does not have lead or copper. The concern is that some home plumbing has lead and copper which could leach out if high concentrations of fluoride were in the home. By flushing the hot water and cold water each for 30 minutes, that should get rid of any extra fluoride and any leached copper/lead from your system. If you are concerned there is a lingering issue in your home, you can request testing here: http://sandy.utah.gov/water-testing

Q: How can you be sure of the affected areas?

Q-

How can you be sure that this problem only affects the area you mentioned and doesn't extend to other parts of Sandy? Doesn't the whole city get its water from the same place?

A-

Once the city’s Public Utilities Department discovered the failed equipment on Thursday, February 7 at 2 p.m., they immediately closed valves to isolate the area (approximately 11026 South to 11125 South and 1850 East to 1950 East). This prevented the contamination from spreading any further.


Q: I'm outside affected areas with brown water...

Q-

I’m outside the affected area and my water was a brown/copper color in the bathtub, but you say the contamination couldn’t have spread. What’s the deal? 

A-

When everyone is flushing the water lines it tends to stir up sediment in the overall water system as the system has to work overtime; this doesn’t mean your area is affected. You should flush until you have the desired clarity in your water. If you are still concerned about your water, you can request testing here: http://sandy.utah.gov/water-testing

Q: What about schools, businesses and restaurants?

Q-

Is the water safe to drink at schools, businesses, and restaurants in the affected area?

A-

Yes, we notified restaurants, schools, churches, daycares, and other businesses in the area and gave them the same order to flush their systems as we gave residents. If you are concerned about a particular business, you can ask them directly if they have flushed their system.

Q: The ban lifted & I'm still afraid to drink...

Q-

I’m still afraid to drink the water even with the ban lifted. How do I know that the water is safe?

A-

We fixed the malfunctioning valve and corrected the fluoride input on February 7, 2019. After residents flushed their systems, the fluoride levels returned to normal, which we found through certified test results. (Click here to find links to those results: https://sandy.utah.gov/departments/public-utilities) Once high levels of fluoride stop, any leaching also stops and the home’s plumbing will again develop a protective mineral scale. (See the letter from the Salt Lake County Health Department: https://sandy.utah.gov/home/showdocument?id=8395) The Testing of the City water system and individual homes will continue and results will be shared in a timely and transparent manner. In the event of any high metal lab results, we will notify the home within 24 hours. In that case, it is most likely due to the conditions within the home and not in the city’s drinking water system, but we will work with the affected home to determine a cause and find a solution.

Q: Was chlorine added due to low pH by fluoride?

Q-

Was chlorine added to the water to compensate for the low pH caused by the fluoride?

A: No, we did not add any chlorine to the water.

Q: Why is fluoride in our water to begin with?

Q:

Why is fluoride in our water to begin with?

A:

We are complying with a voter referendum from 2000 that directed fluoride to be added to the water. If you have any questions about fluoridation, please contact SLCoHD (Salt Lake County Health Department) 385-468-3862.

Health Information

Q: Concerns about fluoride and metal ingested...

Q:

What if I have concerns about the fluoride, lead, or copper levels that I may have ingested that may be harmful to me and my family?

A:

We understand you are concerned, please consult with your health care provider. For example, symptoms related to high fluoride exposure may include gastrointestinal symptoms such as stomach pains, nausea, stomach cramping, and possible dry or foul taste in the mouth. The most susceptible populations include infants, elderly, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems. With the sample data we have collected, the lead and copper are well below the levels normally seen for acute effects. The bigger concern is long-term exposure, which is being investigated with follow up sampling. For additional detailed information, check Sandy City’s website at www.sandy.utah.gov or contact Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222. You may submit a claim here for compensation: https://sandy.utah.gov/departments/city-recorder/claim-of-damages-request

Q: What if my pet ingested the contaminated water?

Q:

What if my pet ingested the contaminated water?

A:

If affected, your pet would likely have symptoms similar to those of humans. If so, you may want to contact your local veterinarian if your pet has symptoms such as: stomach pains, nausea, or stomach cramping. For additional detailed information, check Sandy City’s website at www.sandy.utah.gov or contact Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222. You may submit a claim here for compensation: https://sandy.utah.gov/departments/city-recorder/claim-of-damages-request

Q: We got sick, will Sandy City cover our medical?

Q: What if we did get sick? Will Sandy City cover our medical expenses?

A: You may submit a claim here for compensation: https://sandy.utah.gov/departments/city-recorder/claim-of-damages-request

Q: My blood test shows higher levels of lead...

Q:

What do I do if I have a blood test and there are higher levels of lead in my system?

A:

Individuals with elevated blood lead test results should consult with their health care provider to receive the treatment most appropriate for them. This may include nutritional guidance and follow-up blood lead testing at recommended intervals. Salt Lake County Health Department will contact individuals with blood lead levels above 5 μg/dL to conduct an environmental assessment to identify potential sources of lead exposure. Additionally, you may submit a claim for compensation here: https://sandy.utah.gov/departments/city-recorder/claim-of-damages-request

Q: What does the Health Department have to say?

Q:

What does the Health Department have to say about this?

A:

You can read their document here: https://sandy.utah.gov/home/showdocument?id=8395

Q: I'm still afraid to drink the water after...

Q:

I’m still afraid to drink the water even with the ban lifted. How do I know that the water is safe?

A:

We fixed the malfunctioning valve and corrected the fluoride input. After residents flushed their systems, the fluoride levels returned to normal, which we found through certified test results. (Click here to find links to those results: https://sandycity.chemtechford.com/ ) Once high levels of fluoride stop, any leaching also stops and the home’s plumbing will again develop a protective mineral scale. (See the letter from the Salt Lake County Health Department: https://sandy.utah.gov/home/showdocument?id=8395) The Testing of the City water system and individual homes will continue and results will be shared in a timely and transparent manner. In the event of any high metal lab results, we will notify the home within 24 hours. In that case, it is most likely due to the conditions within the home and not in the city’s drinking water system, but we will work with the affected home to determine a cause and find a solution.

Q: Pet/livestock exposure to elevated lead levels?

Q: What are the effects of pet and livestock exposure to elevated levels of lead?

A:

  • The effects of short- term exposure to high levels of lead are similar to that of humans. Lead can cause diarrhea or vomiting during the time of exposure, but symptoms will subside when the exposure ends.

  • Long-time exposure may cause seizures, poor appetite, extreme anxiety, changes in behavior, etc.

  • If a pet or livestock is showing unusual behavior, owners should consult their veterinarian or call the ASPCA animal poison center at 888-426-4435.

Water Flushing

Q: How do I flush my home water system?

Q:

How do I flush my home water system?

A:

Run EVERY TAP IN YOUR HOME CONCURRENTLY for a total of 60 minutes. Start with hot (for 30 minutes) followed by cold (for 30 minutes). Empty ice trays from refrigerator. Replace water filters that are older than six months.

Q: Should residents outside affected area flush?

Q:

Should residents outside of the affected area flush their systems too?

A:

If you are not in the affected area, you do not need to flush your water system.

Q: Will we receive a credit on our water bills...

Q:

Will we receive a credit on our water bills for the cost of the flush?

A:

Sandy City will provide a one-time $25 credit to the water bills of Sandy residents within the affected area. This amount will cover more than the actual cost of water used in the flush to help offset any expenses you may have incurred by purchasing water bottles or the like.

Q: Do we need to change our water filters?

Q:

Do we need to change our water filters?

A:

If you haven't changed your water filter in the last six months, it is recommended that you change it. You will also need to refer to the manufacturer recommendations for your specific water filter.

Water Testing

Q: How does water sampling work?

Q:

How does water sampling work?

A:

Sandy City staff and volunteers are being trained in sampling techniques to assure validity of the samples. All samples are labeled and follow the “chain of custody” requirement to ensure the tests are not compromised. All samples are processed and analyzed in a certified lab. The results are tracked and evaluated to determine compliance with Drinking Water regulations and safety. A detailed laboratory report is produced on every sample. Based on the representative samples collected in the affected area, the No Drinking Order was lifted in Zone 3 (700 E to 1700 E, 10600 S. to 11400 S.) on February 17, 2019. This decision was made in coordination with the State Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), State Water Safety Division officials, Salt Lake County Health Department and the EPA.

Q: Is Sandy still water testing with ban lifted?

Q:

Is Sandy City still providing water testing for households in the affected area even after the No Drinking Ban has been lifted?

A:

Yes! We are testing the water system in the affected area. Testing of the water system in the affected area will involve intensive testing over several weeks. This is to ensure there are no lingering problems in individual home’s plumbing systems as a result of the high levels of fluoride. To request testing, please fill out request form at http://sandy.utah.gov/water-testing

Q: If the water is safe why are you still testing?

Q:

If the water is safe, why are you still testing homes?

A:

We are still testing to ensure there are no lingering problems in individual home’s plumbing systems as a result of the high levels of fluoride. To request testing, please fill out request form at http://sandy.utah.gov/water-testing

Q: Will Sandy continue to test the water?

Q:

Will Sandy continue to test the water at a city level?

A:

The city continually monitors our water system as part of city and state requirements. However, because of this incident, we will have intensive water quality monitoring throughout the rest of the year.

Q: My water was tested, where are the results?

Q:

Water was collected from my home; how do I get the results and when should I get them?

A:

After a sample has been taken from your home, it will take 3-4 days to get your certified lab test results. After that time, you can click here https://sandycity.chemtechford.com/ to search for and see your results. Additionally, we will contact any homes that come back with test results that indicate poor water quality within 24 hours of receiving the result.

Q: What if my water test shows high levels?

Q:

What happens if my home still has levels above the acceptable standards?

A:

The city water pipes and supply continue to test as safe, but it’s possible that some homes may show levels of contaminants above the standards. This is because of unique conditions within the home that may need further investigation if a thorough “flushing” has been performed (30 minutes ALL taps on hot, followed by 30 minutes of ALL taps on cold, and empty ice trays and pet water dishes). Sandy City will coordinate with those individual homeowners to provide further guidance and testing if needed.

Ramifications

Q: Will homeowners need to replace their pipes?

Q:

Will homeowners need to replace pipes in their homes?

A:

No. The fluoride overfeed incident may have temporarily affected the protective coating of the plumbing within homes. With the pH of the water returning to normal, there is no more acidic effect that will contribute to the leaching of the metals into the water, and the home’s plumbing will again develop a  protective mineral scale. (See: https://sandy.utah.gov/home/showdocument?id=8395) Older homes may be more susceptible because of the materials commonly used when those homes were built. If the flushing instructions have been followed, and if the lab tests indicate results within normal limits, home pipes should be fine. Homes that were closest to the fluoride incident that initially tested high, are now normal.

Q: What new safeguards will be put in place?

Q:

What safeguards are going to be put in place to prevent this from happening again after a power outage?

A:

We will be hiring independent consultants to evaluate our entire system in addition to our staff testing and working with the state.

Transparency

Q: On 2/16/19 why did Sandy only take 28 samples?

Q:

Why did Sandy City decide to take only 28 samples in the morning of February 16, 2019?

A:

The 28 sample sites chosen for the testing on February 16, 2019 and were strategically selected to represent the potentially affected area. It is common practice in these types of situations to select representative samples across the community. However, Sandy City Administration remains committed to test EVERY home within the potentially affected area.  

Q: Did Sandy follow protocol for notifying...

Q:

Did Sandy City follow protocol for notifying regulatory agencies?

A:

Sandy City did follow protocol for notifying the Health Department on the day the incident was discovered and notified the state DEQ the next day.

Q: Why didn’t we hear about this right away?

Q:

Why didn’t we hear about this right away? I didn’t receive a Reverse 911 call, and I don’t think anyone came to my door.

A:

We have expanded the flush order much further than the affected area in order to be overly cautious. Those who were affected by the original fluoride issue were contacted immediately. Reverse 911 only contacts landlines and those cell phone users who have signed up for the system. You can sign-up here: http://www.vecc9-1-1.com/voip-registration/ We are looking into ways to spread information better in the event of another emergency. We plan to leave flyers on front doors and garage doors and hope to use a push notification through our city app. You can download that here: https://sandy.utah.gov/residents/sandynow/citizen-connect/cityserve-app

Q: Will there be investigations in response?

Q:

What is the City doing in response to this issue? Will you be investigating?

A:

Yes. On February 19, 2019, our City Council unanimously voted to open an independent investigation into the city’s response to water quality issues. Additionally, Sandy’s Public Utilities Director has been placed on paid administrative leave during a separate independent investigation.

Additional Questions

Q: My question isn't here. Who can I call?

Q:

My question wasn’t answered here. Who can I call?

A:

Call 801-352-4400 or 801-568-7280