(KUTV) — Inside the Southwest Ground Water Treatment Facility in West Jordan, well-calibrated machines are hard at work carefully distributing fluoride to the Salt Lake Valley water supply.
The treatment plant is one of three in the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District.
In 2000, Salt Lake County residents voted to have fluoride put into their drinking water. Monitored by the Salt Lake County Health Department, treatment facilities officially started fluoridating in 2003.
“Fluoride, like many vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to us at appropriate levels, they can cause some unfortunate health effects if it’s too high,” Nicholas Rupp, spokesperson for the health department, said.
The Centers for Disease Control said fluoride is proven to prevent tooth decay. As of 2012, 75 percent of U.S. community water systems contain fluoride, the CDC said. But, too much of the mineral can be harmful.
“If you get too much fluoride you can have some acute effects which is stomach upsets, nausea, vomiting,” Rupp said.
“We take fluoride very seriously. We know that in large doses, it’s something that can be harmful,” Shazelle Terry, operations department manager at the Southwest Ground Water Treatment Plant, said.
They fluoridate 5.5 million gallons of water at the facility per day. Terry said the mineral is very acidic and too high of levels in water can corrode pipes.
“We have lots of controls in place to make sure we’re feeding exactly the right amount,” Terry said.
3,000 gallons of hydrofluoric acid is held in a large storage tank. Flow meters and scales carefully calculate the amount of fluoride being fed into the water.
“We have instrumentation that monitors the concentration of that fluoride in the water and also the PH and at each of those point we have alarms, so if something goes too high or too low, that notifies our operators to check those things to make sure everything is really happening correctly,” Terry said.
A series of computerized monitors check the fluoride and PH levels before sending the water out of the treatment center. Alarms will sound if levels are not precise.
The health department wants to assure the public fluoridating water is safe.
“Problems with the fluoride system are extremely rare and as long as we’ve been fluoridizing in Salt Lake County, we’ve never seen something like this happen,” Rupp said, referring to the water contamination in Sandy.
“I want to caution people against throwing out the many years of positive effects we’ve had because of water fluoridation because of this one really unfortunate problem,” Rupp said.
*Original article online at https://kutv.com/news/local/fluoridating-salt-lake-county-water-a-look-inside-water-treatment-facilities