High Levels of Lead, Copper Force No-Drink Orders in Sandy

Feb 17, 2019, 7:35 AM | Updated: 7:37 am

SANDY, Utah – The director of the Utah Division of Drinking Water said water samples showed lead and copper levels dropping Saturday evening.

Sandy City leaders told people in nearly 3,000 homes not to drink from their taps after the contaminants were discovered Friday.

The problems began last week, when a snowstorm knocked out power to a fluoride doser at a well in Sandy. Public Utilities Director Tom Ward said when the doser came back online, it started putting excess fluoride into the water.

He said some people became sick and reported it. He said they discovered the problem, stopped it from putting fluoride into the water, and had people flush their pipes.

Utah Division of Drinking Water director Marie Owens said Sandy City reported the fluoride issue to them last week and they began to participate in the response.

She said they collected samples to test for other contamination. On February 15, Owens said, they got results from those samples showing high lead and copper levels.

Owens said the highest level of lead they saw was 394 micrograms per liter. The level at which a water system has to take action is 15 micrograms per liter.

The highest copper level they saw was 28,800 micrograms per liter. The action level for copper is 1,300 micrograms per liter.

Owens said the high levels of fluoride may have made the water more acidic, which caused lead or copper in some homes’ pipes to leech out. Owens said the high lead and copper levels have only shown up in particular homes, not in the general Sandy water supply.

The evening of February 15, the warning went out to Sandy residents living in the area of contamination.

Owens said test results coming in Saturday night showed a dramatic drop in lead and copper levels. At the time, she said, only one sample remained in the action zone. They were still waiting for results on 28 samples.

Multiple people have reported becoming sick after drinking the water. The parents of a 3-month-old said he vomited after drinking formula that contained tap water.

“We are not certain how much children may have been exposed to, how much they drank during the event. We’re still collecting data on that,” Owens said.

Owens said copper consumption could cause indigestion, cramps, vomiting, and muscle spasms. Lead consumption, she said, could have neurological impacts.

Friday night, the city notified people in 2,983 homes that they should not drink their tap water and set up a water distribution center. By Saturday evening, Sandy mayor Kurt Bradburn said they had given out more than 60,000 bottles of water. Police officers also went door to door handing out water.

The water distribution center is at the Sandy Public Utilities building at 9150 South 150 East. People who need water for their livestock are also directed to go there.

Owens said the initial fluoride overfeed event resulted in a citation to Sandy City. Owens said Sandy City would also have a violation on their record for public notification. She said that is something the state does anytime they require public notification.

“It is not indicative that they have failed to notify. It’s just indicative that we have required to do that public notification,” Owens said.

As more sample results come in this weekend, officials hope to get things resolved.

“We would like to get these people back to their normal function, being able to use the water in their home as quickly as possible, but we will be careful and base that on laboratory data,” Owens said.

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High Levels of Lead, Copper Force No-Drink Orders in Sandy