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SANDY — Recordings of two 911 calls to Sandy City's dispatch center reveal concern and confusion from residents about what we now know was acute levels of fluoride in their water.
“I went to take a drink of it and I had to spew it out. There’s something wrong with the water,” one man told the operator in the early morning hours of Feb. 7. “It almost tasted like too much chemicals or sewage. I don’t know what it was.”
(The water) almost tasted like too much chemicals or sewage. I don’t know what it was.
The caller said the day before his wife had mentioned that the water tasted “funny.”
“It’s just awful,” he said.
He went on to explain that he and his wife had very upset stomachs after drinking the water from their kitchen tap.
“I drank a bunch of it,” he said at the end of the call. “I don’t know if it’s bad water. I hope I’m OK.”
After asking a series of questions, the dispatcher offers to send the fire department and call the water department.
“It’s extremely metallic and extremely painful” is how another caller described the water to a different dispatcher on the afternoon of Feb. 6.
Both callers live in the same neighborhood where Sandy City says a power outage caused a fluoride pump to malfunction on Feb. 5, allowing undiluted fluoride to enter the water supply.
“It’s the water. I can’t reach anybody at Sandy City,” the Feb. 6 caller said, telling the dispatcher he suspected something had malfunctioned because of the storm.
“Nobody at the city is answering,” he said. “Everybody goes home at 3:30.”
Documents from the Utah Department of Environmental Quality say that on Feb. 6 the pump house in the neighborhood was not checked because of the inclement weather.
“Most of the Sandy City operations staff had been sent home due to the snow storm,” reads a Feb. 11 communication to Sandy’s public utility director. “Which resulted in the Paradise Well and its fluoridation facility not being checked according to Sandy City’s routine daily inspection practice.”
City crews discovered the fluoride malfunction on Feb. 7. Residents received an official notification on Feb. 8.
It wasn’t until a week later, on Feb. 15, that lab results showed acute high levels of copper and lead in the water supply, prompting the city to issue a “no drink order” for more than 2,000 homes.
The undiluted fluoride corroded pipes and fixtures, which allowed the metals to leach into the water, according to Utah’s Division of Drinking Water. The division sent a notice to the city saying damage to pipes, hot water tanks, filters and water softeners could be permanent.
As of Feb. 17, the city has said all water is safe to drink.