Fluoride Action Network

Fluoride Malfunction in Massachusetts Water Plant

Source: Boston Herald | August 9th, 2000 | by Robin Washington

The difference between Wakefield and Norfolk is roughly 30 miles. But in terms of notifying residents about problems with the water system, it’s about 24 hours.

“They tried to poison us and they didn’t even bother to tell us,” said Linda Collins of Wakefield after an overdose of fluoride seeped into the town water supply two weeks ago.

By contrast, Norfolk residents were less critical of the E. coli warning that popped up Monday.

“They found out (Monday) and it was on the news last night. We were notified with a letter that they hand-delivered to us before we opened this morning. What more could they do?” said Roger Ring of Tyler’s Restaurant.

Gail Bernardo of Norfolk’s Water Department said she issued an alert at 3:30 p.m. Monday after routine tests found E. coli in two samples out of 12. “We notified all the major TV news stations . . . all the major papers,” she said.

The Wakefield story also made Fox news, but the station called the town, not the other way around. And while officials there too made door-to-door warnings, it was only around the pumping station.

“The only reason we heard about it was the town came to the store to take a sample,” said Diane Rosati of Greenwood Food Mart.

But that was long after the spill, which was detected the day before on July 28, said Wakefield Public Works chief Steven Cassazza.

If Steve’s last name is familiar, it’s because it’s the same as Joe Cassazza, Boston’s Public Works boss. “That’s my dad,” said Steve.

While Dad might have been proud at how junior and his team swung into action, Wakefield residents were fuming. But the state Department of Environmental Protection said Cassazza did everything by the book, even as fluoride levels hit 23 milligrams per liter, well over the 4 mpl DEP limit.

“There were no reports of nausea or vomiting or other intestinal problems such as diarrhea. Based on that, the department determined this was not an acute (situation),” said DEP’s David Terry.

Collins would disagree. “I was crazy dizzy and I had the runs. I think it was woefully inadequate the way they notified us,” she said.

“Because they didn’t.”