Franklin’s Fluoride Return to Safe Levels

| February 21, 2018

FRANKLIN, Pa. (EYT) – It appears that the drinking water issues in the City of Franklin have come to an end.

The city made the announcement in a “Drinking Water Problem Corrected” notice issued Wednesday afternoon.

According to City Manager Tracy Jamieson, the certified tests show the fluoride in the city’s water has returned to safe levels.

View the notice here

Though the city’s water troubles may be drawing to an end, some residents are still unclear about exactly how and when events leading to the high fluoride levels occurred.

exploreVenango.com put together the following timeline of events.

FEBRUARY 1

According to a statement made by Franklin General Authority Council Chairperson Ann Rudegeair at the General Authority meeting on Thursday, February 15, (covered in a previous story) a Third Ward resident complained of a blue stain in the laundry tub and a blue stain on their laundry, and city staff and engineers met to determine the cause of the lone incident to see if it was related to the city’s system.

Franklin City Manager Tracy Jamieson also stated they received a single complaint on February 1, and began investigating then.

FEBRUARY 6 AND 7

At the Authority meeting, Chairperson Rudegair stated further complaints were received late in the evening of February 6 and early morning on February 7, when there were reports of either bluish or brownish water. Jamieson told exploreVenango.com she received complaints about discolored water on February 7.

FEBRUARY 8

Both Rudegair and Jamieson have stated that the morning of February 8, the city received more complaints and contacted the Department of Environmental Protection. They say that at that time, they believed the problem was probably coming from one of two of the industrial plants in the area of the reports.

That is when the city issued the “Do Not Drink Water” warning to what seemed to be the affected area (previous coverage)

That morning, upon inspecting the water flow, it was determined there was a malfunction of one of the valves. Uncertified field testing of the water showed elevated levels of fluoride. Staff at Barrett Flats also noticed that a pump that put the flow of fluoride into the system was not functioning, and all of the fluoride tanks were empty. They discovered three different malfunctions with the pump which allowed elevated amounts of fluoride into the system. At that time, the staff cut off the fluoride flow from both plants and began to flush the lines, while continuing to take field tests, according to Rudegeair.

Although the malfunctions were discovered on the morning of the February 8, city officials still aren’t certain exactly when it occurred. When asked, City Manager Tracy Jamieson said, “The staff would have noticed if the fluoride was gone on the seventh,” but noted that it was something that they would continue to investigate.

FEBRUARY 12

The city issued a release explaining the mechanical malfunction that triggered the release of higher than normal fluoride levels into Franklin’s water system as the root cause of the problem.

exploreVenango.com talked to Jamieson about why residents weren’t immediately informed of the elevated fluoride level when they were discovered on February 8. Jamieson said that since the tests were only uncertified field tests, and since the city had already issued a “Do Not Drink Water” warning, they decided to wait for confirmation from the DEP that the elevated fluoride was the root cause of the water issues.

“We were still trying to identify other sources for the contamination at that point,” Jamieson explained.

FEBRUARY 14

Department of Environmental Protection Field Orders (available here) were issued to both the City of Franklin and the General Authority of the City of Franklin – Public Water System.

FEBRUARY 16

The Department of Environmental Protection released field sample and lab sample results (available in our previous coverage).

FEBRUARY 21

“Drinking Water Problem Corrected” Notice issued.

exploreVenango.com asked Tracy Jamieson today what the city is planning to do to prevent something like this from occurring again in the future. She told us since the Authority approved the purchase of a computerized fluoride release system, they are continuing to work toward that goal.

“We have to change our permit with the DEP to purchase an automated system, though,” she said, noting that it will take some time.

“We are working on a final report to the DEP, too. We’re interviewing employees and planning an after-crisis meeting with the General Authority to discuss exactly what happened and how to avoid anything like this in the future. Also, how we could improve our response,” Jamieson said.

We also talked to Melanie Williams, DEP Community Relations Coordinator, about the health risks related to ingesting high levels of fluoride. She told us, “The EPA MCL of 4 mg/L is based on an increased risk of skeletal fluorosis and is not limited to children under 9.” More information about fluoridation and related issues is available on the EPA website.

According to Tracy Jamieson, no cases of fluorosis have been reported to the city.

We also attempted to talk to Williams about the possibility of further DEP enforcement actions against the City of Franklin, but were told only, “The Department’s investigation is ongoing and we will not comment on the potential for enforcement actions.”


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