Drinking water safe again after ‘equipment malfunction’ deposits extra fluoride into Utah town’s system

Fluoride levels have since returned to “acceptable” in Sunset City, but residents of the Davis County town are advised to take some precautionary steps.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sunset City in 2011. An “equipment malfunction” poured extra fluoride into the Sunset City water system on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022. Fluoride levels have since returned to “acceptable,” but residents of the Davis County town are advised to take a few precautionary steps.

An “equipment malfunction” poured extra fluoride into the Sunset City water system last week, prompting officials in the Davis County town to advise residents to “flush” — or run — tap water for several minutes, along with other precautions.

The problem began Tuesday but wasn’t discovered until Wednesday at about 10 a.m., according to a news release from the Utah Department of Environmental Quality. As of Friday afternoon, fluoride levels in the city’s water were “well below” the Environmental Protection Agency’s standards, and the drinking water warning was lifted.

The affected fluoride feed station specifically injected fluoride into the main pipeline to Sunset City. The Weber Basin Water Conservancy District notified Sunset, which collected samples and flushed the city drinking water system.

Out of the eight samples initially collected, three exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency’s fluoride maximum contaminant level of 4 mg/L, with levels between 6-13 mg/L, the news release states.

What residents and business owners should do:

After the water system was flushed, secondary samples showed that fluoride levels had “returned to acceptable levels.”

But the Utah Division of Drinking Water recommended that households and businesses take a few steps to make sure their water is safe if they haven’t already done so:

  • Run every cold and hot water tap used for drinking water or bathing for three to five minutes.

  • Empty any water in appliance service lines.

  • Discard any ice in refrigerators and water used for pets.

  • After running taps, report any objectionable taste, odors or discoloration in the drinking water to the city.

  • If you are experiencing any health effects, contact your health care provider.

“As our customers, we take your health seriously and want to let you know what happened, what we are doing to correct the situation, and the actions you can take to ensure that you and your family have safe drinking water,” the city said in a statement on the website.

Small amounts of fluoride in water helps prevent tooth decay, the release states. Some people who regularly drink water with too much fluoride in it can develop bone disease, but only after many years, officials advised.

Short exposure can cause mottling — brown staining and/or pitting — of young children’s developing permanent teeth, according to the release.