OGDEN — As Sandy City continues to deal with fallout related to a recent, widespread water contamination, Ogden officials say that despite having one of the state’s oldest water infrastructures, a similar event here is highly unlikely.
According the the Associated Press and the Salt Lake Tribune, a Sandy City fluoride pump malfunctioned after a power outage on Feb. 6. The faulty pump poured an overload of fluoride into the city’s water system, which corroded pipes in some properties and caused the release of toxic lead and copper.
The pump was repaired nearly two days after the incident, the city said. Officials initially thought the contamination only affected about 60 homes, but it was later discovered that some 600 homes were involved.
As expected, Sandy residents widely criticized the city during public meetings and on social media.
Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell said after learning of the incident, he spoke with city Public Services Director Jay Lowder and Public Utilities Manager Kenton Moffett, who assured him Ogden is doubtful to find itself in a position similar to Sandy’s.
“I wanted to know what was going on and what happened and where the gaps were,” Caldwell said.
The mayor said Sandy’s water quality problems are strictly linked to the over-abundance of fluoride, which changed the pH levels in the water and caused the contamination. He said his team told him changing pH conditions were also a major contributor to the well-known water debacle in Flint, Michigan, along with the introduction of a new water source.
“We’re keeping our same water sources and we don’t introduce fluoride into the water,” Caldwell said. “So problems similar to what (Sandy and Flint) saw, we don’t expect to see.”
Another issue Sandy ran into after the contamination, Caldwell said, was public noticing. State officials said the city lagged in providing water test results after the contamination was discovered.
Ogden has an emergency plan in place where it would knock and place informational door hangers at every impacted residence. Caldwell said the city is working through limitations with their reverse 911 system, but that measure could be used as well. The city is also working to collect a database of resident emails and phone numbers for emergency alerts.
Incorporated in 1851, Ogden’s water distribution system is one of the oldest in the state. That reality was discussed at length in August when the Ogden City Council approved a new culinary water master plan that includes millions of dollars worth of water-related capital improvement projects.
The plan recommended $41 million in system upgrades that should take place over the next five years, including a $3.4 million rehabilitation of the storage tanks above 46th Street, a $6.8 million project to rehabilitate wells near the Ogden-Hinckley Airport and Pineview Reservoir and another $31 million for projects related to fire flow, pressure and pipeline leaks.
In the five years after that, an additional $39 million is recommended for fire flow, pressure and storage projects and to repair leaks.
Since Ogden’s last culinary water plan was adopted in 2012, the city has completed several large water infrastructure construction projects, including a new water treatment plant, new storage facilities and repairs to many large transmission lines.
A 2016 council-approved $17 million bond has been used to pay for a number those projects.