Investigation Finds Sandy City Did Not Hide Info, Should Have Communicated Better After Fluoride Incident

May 30, 2019, 6:45 PM | Updated: 6:50 pm

SANDY, Utah – A third-party investigation into Sandy City’s response to the February fluoride overfeed incident found the city did not try to hide information from the public, but did not communicate effectively. The city released the report Thursday and announced Tom Ward would return to his post as the city’s public utilities director.

According to investigators, a doser malfunctioned in early February, putting too much fluoride into some homes’ drinking water. That fluoride made the water acidic and, in some cases, the acidic water appears to have corroded pipes in the homes, allowing metals such as lead to leach into the drinking water.

The law office of Parsons, Behle, & Latimer conducted the investigation, interviewing several people involved in the incident and reviewing documents and text messages.

“Sandy’s operational response to the fluoride overfeed was generally within normal industry standards, but Sandy failed to comply with technical regulatory notice requirements. This investigation did not reveal that the City hid information from the public. Sandy could have and should have identified, with more specificity and speed, who was impacted by the fluoride overfeed. Sandy could have and should have communicated more information to impacted residents earlier in the event. Had the City followed its emergency response plan more closely, Public Utilities’ operational and technical response would have been more organized and may have resulted in a more timely public notification. A notice not to drink the water until residents had completely flushed their home systems delivered to a larger notification area at an earlier time would have alleviated many of the harmful impacts. The stated rationale that City employees wanted to avoid a ‘panic’ was not warranted,” the report said.

“In hindsight, you’re always going to look back and realize there’s things you should have done better,” Mayor Kurt Bradburn said Thursday afternoon.

Bradburn said the city is focused on improving communications, both for citizens and for employees.

“One is the communication piece in how we get information out. The other is on the technical side, how we get information into our city operators and engineers. Part of that is modeling. Part of that is actual pumps and feeds and alert systems and the nuts and bolts of well sites and things like that,” Bradburn said.

Bradburn said the city has received 48 claims from people who said the water made them sick or caused damage in their homes. He said the city is working to resolve those claims.

There are other investigations still in progress. Bradburn expects those investigations to finish in June.

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Investigation Finds Sandy City Did Not Hide Info, Should Have Communicated Better After Fluoride Incident