SANDY — The Salt Lake Valley Health Department and Intermountain Healthcare wrapped up two weeks of free blood tests on Friday for Sandy residents who may have ingested water contaminated with lead, copper and excess fluoride.
In the meantime, the city was ordered this week by the Utah Division of Drinking Water to complete an illness report in the aftermath of a contamination event with impacts still not fully understood.
On Friday, Sandy Deputy Mayor Evelyn Everton said the city put out a request for proposals for an investigation into the handling of communications and emergency response after the release of hydrofluorosilicic acid from a malfunctioning pump on Feb. 5.
The city also retained an attorney to investigate management of the release.
This isn't the first time in Utah that an accidental release of the concentrated material has caused problems in the communities where voters approved the introduction of fluoride into community drinking water systems.
Hydroflurosilicic acid is a concentrate that in its undiluted form is classified as a hazardous, poisonous material that, while it contains fluoride, also contains arsenic, lead, copper, manganese, iron and aluminum. It is a byproduct from phosphate mining operations.
In 2007, an estimated 1,500 gallons of hydrofluorosilicic acid was released in a tank rupture at a treatment plant in Salt Lake County, prompting monitoring of Parleys Creek from Sugarhouse Park to Mountain Dell Reservoir, according to state documents.
Five years later, a worker at a North Salt Lake water treatment plant was hospitalized when he was exposed to fumes during a delivery of the material. He was not wearing any personal protection equipment. Officials at the time believed a hose may have malfunctioned.
In North Salt Lake two years later, a feeder pump malfunctioned, discharging 140 gallons of the acid onto the floor of a drinking water well house. The material then made its way to the curb and gutter into the storm drain. Incident reports say fumes corroded the lock on the facility, making it inoperable.
The Centers for Disease Control named community water fluoridation as one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century, but the practice is not without its controversy or its critics, for a number of reasons.
Just two of Utah's 29 counties opted for fluoridation in narrow votes about 20 years ago, and while the majority of the nation's water systems are fluoridated, some communities are revisiting the issue or opting out altogether.
Although the CDC touts that for every dollar invested in community fluoridation $38 in dental treatment costs are saved, a 2015 study debunked that assertion because of the costs associated with remediating the over fluoridation of children — something called fluorisis.
The study by the International Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health concluded the cost savings were based on a "flawed analysis" that also ignored the costs of environmental impacts, equipment replacement, overfeed incidents like Sandy's, introducing fluoride into the system and occupational exposure.
It also cited the "poor track record" for cost estimates by community water fluoridation advocates, pointing in particular to Utah costs far higher than initially proposed.
Salt Lake County officials have not indicated any desire to revisit the fluoride issue, although at least one Davis County commissioner is making site inspections at distribution points.
Utah cited Sandy with three drinking water violations and ordered an intensified testing schedule for contaminants like lead and copper.