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Fluoridation accidents
Local news coverage of accidents in towns of all sizes

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Damage control after fluoride blunder hits homes

Brisbane Australia
Population - 2 million

The Courier-Mail (Queensland, Australia)
May 15, 2009
by Patrick Lion

THOUSANDS of households had to wait almost a fortnight to be told they had drunk water containing 20 times the allowable limit of fluoride.

The Bligh Government was in damage control last night, after admitting 300,000 litres of contaminated water were pumped into up to 4000 Brisbane homes for three hours on May 1.

The blunder went undiscovered for 12 days after a shutdown at the North Pine Dam treatment plant meant a routine daily test on April 29 was not processed until this week.

Queensland Health has insisted the risk of illness was "extremely remote" but the public relations disaster comes after promises fluoride was completely safe when the initiative began last year.

The investigation will also focus on why at least three safety devices failed at the plant, supplying homes in the northern suburbs of Brendale and Warner with 30mg/L of fluoride, when the limit is 1.5mg/L.

Premier Anna Bligh yesterday said the turnaround time for the test was unavoidable due to the shutdown, but admitted concern over the overdose.

"This is unacceptable and I, like other Queenslanders, have questions about it, and I'm not happy," she said.

"We're unaware of any precedent in any other fluoride treatment plant."

But Opposition Leader John-Paul Langbroek, a pro-fluoride dentist, said the two-week test delay was too long.

"Some people didn't want this, but they told us the processes would be safe," he said.

The bungle occurred when fluoride continued to mix into water when the treatment plant was shut down for routine maintenance late last month.

When the plant resumed operations on May 1, the overdosed water discharged into household supplies between 9am and noon.

SEQWater normally receives the results on the same day but The Courier-Mail understands the bulk supplier failed to test the water before its release after the shutdown.

It is understood the failure meant plant operator LinkWater tested the water further down the line, with its testing taking 12 days instead of SEQWater's normal same-day result.

LinkWater received the test results back on Tuesday.

SEQ Water was told on Wednesday before the Premier was told later that night.

Queensland Health chief health officer Jeannette Young yesterday said there had been no complaints of gastroenteritis, which would have produced diarrhoea and vomiting within 24 hours.

Letters had not been received by households last night and angry residents were contacting The Courier-Mail about the lack of information.

Fluoride My Choice campaigner Selwyn Johnston last night proposed a class action.

"I'd be bloody outraged if it was me," he said.

The plant has been switched off since the findings.

Fluoride Free Fairbanks Web Archive

Fluoride overdose a triple failure

Brisbane Australia
Population - 2 million

The Australian
May 16, 2009
By Natasha Bita

UP to three safeguard systems failed at the Brisbane water-treatment plant that released drinking water to residents with fluoride levels that were 20 times the legal limit.

The revelation came as the Queensland Government yesterday sent apology letters to the 4000 people in northern Brisbane whose water was dosed with 30 milligrams of fluoride per litre, rather than the 1.5mg/litre maximum, for three hours on May 2.

A member of the Queensland Government's Fluoridation Committee, toxicology expert Michael Moore, yesterday called for a review of fluoridation engineering to prevent a repeat bungle.

Mike Foster, a spokesman for Queensland government water authority Seqwater, yesterday admitted that up to three safeguard systems at the North Pine treatment plant had malfunctioned, allowing the fluoride overdose to occur.

The plant had been shut down for maintenance between April 27 and 30, but the dosing machinery continued to pour fluoride into the system.

When the plant came back online, a concentrated amount of fluoride flowed into the system and was not detected until another water company tested water in the pipeline, a process that took two weeks.

The Queensland Health Department's code of practice for water fluoridation warns of the need for back-up systems to prevent accidental overdoses. It specifically warns of the potential to overdose if the water supply is cut off but the fluoride continues to dose, as happened last month.

"All key components should be alarmed to alert the operator of a failure of the system," it says.

The fluoride overdose marks the second water crisis in six months to hit the Bligh Government, after it was forced to back down late last year on plans to add recycled effluent to southeast Queensland dams. The plan was deferred in the face of community and expert concerns about the safety of recycled water, but treated effluent will be added to dams when their levels fall to 40 per cent.

The overdose comes barely four months after Queensland became the last state or territory to introduce fluoride into drinking water.

Professor Moore, the chairman of Water Policy Research Australia, yesterday called for the safety aspects of fluoridation engineering to be re-examined.

"I'm a very firm believer in the benefits associated with fluoridation and this is the worst thing that could have happened," he said.

Professor Moore said the overdose was unlikely to have caused toxic effects.

Seqwater yesterday wrote to "sincerely apologise" to all affected residents in the suburbs of Warner and Brendale.

"It should not have happened and we are committed to ensuring it does not happen again," said the letter, co-signed by Seqwater chief executive Peter Borrows and Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young.

It says Queensland Health is confident the health hazards are "remote".

Fluoride overdoses can cause mottled teeth at concentrations above 1.5mg/litre and bone damage known as skeletal fluorosis at levels exceeding 4mg/litre, according to the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

"Fluoride is absorbed quickly following ingestion," the guidelines state. "It is not metabolised, but diffuses passively into all body compartments."

Fluoride Free Fairbanks Web Archive

Fluoride Blamed in 3 Deaths:
Traces found in Blood of U. of C. Dialysis Patients

Chicago Sun-Times
July 31, 1993
by Gary Wieby

Fluoride poisoning was blamed Friday in the July 16 deaths of three dialysis patients at the University of Chicago Hospitals.

Hospital spokeswoman Susan Phillips said symptoms suffered by the victims -- and by six other dialysis patients who developed symptoms similar to allergic reactions -- “were consistent with fluoride exposure.”

Traces of the chemical were found in patients’ blood serum and in water samples taken at the treatment center at 1164 E. 55th, Phillips said.

Small amounts of fluoride are added to help prevent tooth decay. A series of devices used to purify the water used for dialysis somehow failed to do so, Phillips said.

Hospital president Ralph Muller said, “We will continue our investigation.”

The finding was confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, which is assisting in the investigation along with the Illinois Public Health Department. In addition, samples were tested by laboratories from around the country, Phillips said.

The victims were Beulah Wynn, 86, of the 1400 block of East 68th Street; Ardelle Bell, 78, of the 6200 block of South King Drive, and Mattie Lee, 80, of the 7200 block of South Euclid Avenue.

All suffered from advanced heart disease in addition to the kidney disease that necessitated the blood-cleaning dialysis process.

Exposure to high fluoride levels is rare. But because large volumes of water are used in dialyzing kidney patients, they can accumulate harmful amounts of fluoride if the water is untreated.

Water cleanliness standards are based on exposure by healthy people to 14 liters a week. Dialysis patients use more than 300 liters a week.

The U. of C. Hospitals’ water purification system uses deionized, reverse osmosis, water softeners and three filtration methods. “We’re looking at the entire system,” Phillips said.

The 55th Street facility will be closed until the investigation is completed. Until then, its patients will be treated at the hospital, which has a separate filtration system, or a second off-site dialysis center.

Phillips said none of the hospit’s 250 dialysis patients, who undergo the process three times a week, have canceled appointments since the deaths occurred.

The death rate for dialysis patients is 26 percent a year in Illinois. The rate at the U. of C. Hospitals fell from 17 percent in 1989 to 11 percent last year, officials said.

Fluoride Free Fairbanks Web Archive

Fluoride suspected as 23 in Dublin grow ill
Water officials believe overdose of chemical may have been caused by malfunctioning pump

Dublin CA
Population: 47,000, provides drinking water to 60,000

Contra Costa Times
June 05, 2002
by Kiley Russell

DUBLIN - Twenty-three people were sickened Tuesday morning by what officials suspect is an overdose of fluoride in the drinking water at a Dublin business.

Half of those made ill complained of acute symptoms, including stomach pains and vomiting. Three people were taken to a hospital, said Bert Michalczyk, the Dublin-San Ramon Services District general manager.

The victims were employees of Humphrey Systems Inc., an optical goods company on Hacienda Drive in Eastern Dublin.

About 11 a.m. several people began to feel ill, and company officials quickly discovered that all of them drank from water fountains, Michalczyk said.

"We went out to the facility and asked them to turn on all the faucets to flush out any fluoride. We're emptying the system of its bad water and bringing in the good water," he said.

District crews also disconnected the pump that injects fluoride into the area's water supply as the eastern Dublin system was being flushed clean. No other people in the area complained of illness Tuesday.

The Alameda County health department and the police department were notified, although no foul play is suspected, Michalczyk said.

He said a malfunctioning fluoride pump might be to blame, although no final cause had been determined Tuesday evening.

The district tries to maintain a fluoride level of about one milligram per liter in the drinking supply. Tests at Humphrey Systems on Tuesday showed concentrations of up to 200 milligrams per liter.

Tuesday's incident was not the first time DSRSD had problems with its fluoride program. Dublin went without fluoride in its drinking water for about five months last year because of problems with the delivery system.

Also, the pump suspected to have malfunctioned Tuesday stopped injecting fluoride into the water briefly after it was installed last spring.

Fluoride Free Fairbanks Web Archive

Fluoride Linked to Death

Annapolis, Maryland
Population: 40,000

The Capital
November 29, 1979
by Mary Ann Kryzankowicz, Staff Writer

Fluoride poisoning has been definitely linked to the death of a 65-year-old kidney dialysis patient who became ill during a blood cleaning process Nov 11.

State Medical Examiner Dr. (illegible) Guard has ruled that Lawrence Blake, 65, of Arundel Road, suffered a toxic reaction leading to cardiac arrest. Excessive levels of fluoride were found in Blake's body during an autopsy.

Blake was one of eight patients who became ill during the renal dialysis process at the Bio-medical Applications Inc. center on Forest Drive Nov. 13.

In addition, state health department authorities said at a press conference to Baltimore yesterday that tests conducted on the other seven patients also showed high levels of fluoride in their bodies.

One of the seven surviving patients, Donald Konrad of Pasadena, is in stable condition at Johns Hopkins University today. Another of the patients who suffered minor symptoms during the dialysis treatment, is at Arundel General Hospital where he is being treated for an unrelated medical problem.

State authorities said yesterday that the accidental spill of 1,000 gallons of fluoride into the city's drinking water supply probably would have gone undetected if the kidney patients had not become ill.

The effects of the fluoride overdose is unprecedented because spills have never occurred in a city where a dialysis center is located.

The spill occurred Nov. 11 when a worker at the city's water filtration plant inadvertently left a central valve open for 11 hours, allowing 10 times the normal amount of fluoride to escape into the water supply. The accident was discovered Nov. 12 but state authorities were not notified.

When public works personnel first noticed an increase in the acid level of the water after the spill, lime was dumped into the system to neutralize the water as proscribed by normal procedures.

Public Works Director Joseph Axelrod said the lime was introduced to combat the high acidic levels caused by the high amounts of fluoride while the plant personnel were tracking down the cause of the problem.

However, he said, none of the lime escapes into the drinking water. It settles in storage tanks, he said, and is eventually removed with other sediment.

If the lime, which Thomas Crabtree, the plant superintendent, said did return the water to a more neutral state, had escaped into the drinking water, it would have presented no dangers to residents, health department officials said.

Axelrod and Crabtree were unable to say how much lime was put into the water.

Fluoride Free Fairbanks Web Archive

City sued in fluoride spill

Annapolis, Maryland
Population: 40,000

The Capital
October 30, 1982
by Mary Ann Kryzankowicz, Staff Writer

A $480-million lawsuit has been filed against the City of Annapolis, three water treatment plant employees and the designers of a fluoridation system blamed for the November 1979 poisonings of kidney dialysis patients.

The lawsuit is believed to be the largest claim ever filed against the city.

Donald C. Konrad, allegedly brain-damaged after receiving a dialysis treatment with fluoride contaminated water, and his wife Jacquelyn, of 218 Atlanta Road, Riviera Beach, are seeking damages from the mayor and aldermen, water treatment plant employee Robert Moccia, supervisor Thomas Crabtree, and former Deputy Public Works Engineer John Eick; and seven persons from Whitman Requardt and Associates, the Baltimore firm that designed and approved plans for the fluoridation system.

The lawsuit contains 32 separate counts, seeking $60 million from each of the employees, $90 million from Whitman Requardt, and $210 million from the mayor and aldermen.

City attorney Frederick Sussman said the lawsuit was not a surprise to city officials, although they have not yet received copies of the lawsuit.

"I'm not surprised," Sussman said. "We've been waiting for it. As far as the amount is concerned, anybody can sue for anything. It doesn't mean they'll get it."

The Konrad's lawyer, Joel L. Katz, had notified the city in December 1979 that the couple would file a lawsuit. Litigants are required to notify municipalities within 180 days of the incident that they intend to sue, but the actual lawsuit can be filed at any time within the statute of limitations.

The statute of limitations for fluoride-related claims expires Nov. 11. Sussman said no other claims are expected.

He said the lawsuit will be forwarded to the city's insurance carrier attorneys.

The city will go to court in April on a $1.5 million claim filed by the widow of Lawrence Blake, an elderly dialysis patient who died as a result of fluoride poisoning.

About 1,000 gallons of fluoride enterred the city's water supply when Moccia inadvertently left open a control valve. He was demoted after the incident, and Crabtree and Eick took payroll reductions for allegedly failing to notify authorities of the spill.

The Konrads claim in the lawsuit that the defendants discovered the high concentration of fluoride but failed to take "corrective action" or warn superiors and consumers that the city water supply was contaminated.

The lawsuit claims Eick knew of the spill on Nov. 13, but did not notify his superiors until Nov. 21.

Eight patients receiving blood-cleansing treatments at Bio-Medical Applications on Forest Drive became ill during the treatments Nov. 13. Konrad suffered "cardiac arrest, fluoride poisoning, brain damage and other serious, painful and permanent injuries," the lawsuit states.

The Konrads claim the city "carelessly, recklessly and negligently employed Moccia, Crabtree and Eick (knowing) they lacked the background, training, experience and judgment to perform the duties and functions for which they were employeed... in an emergency situation..." They also charge the city failed to properly train and supervise the employees.

The lawsuit also claims the city violated implied warranties that the water supply was safe and fit for consumption.

The Konrads also charge that the city and its water treatment plant employees were liable for actions constituting "an offensive, unhealthy, hazardous and dangerous nuisance that persisted over the course of several days..."

Whitman Requardt and Associates, a Baltimore engineering firm and seven employees are named as defendants in the lawsuit because they "designed, prepared, developed, analyzed, recommended and approved designs... for construction work and/or improvements and modifications to the plant." The firm and the individuals are charged in the lawsuit with negligence in designing and approving a system that permitted treated water to enter the city supply "without any method or means of testing or determining whether the water (in recycling tanks) contained impurities, contaminants or other hazardous and dangerous substances."

The lawsuit charges the engineering firm "failed to perform the work according to sound engineering principles and with reasonable care, skill and diligence..." The Konrads claim the firm also failed to meet the terms of an agreement for "correcting and abating an existing unhealthy and unsanitary pollution conditions resulting from the drainage of backwash water into a natural creek that threatened the health and welfare of the public."

The city also is charged in the lawsuit with failing to adopt policies and procedures for notifying the public of the danger due to water contamination or other incidents that pose a health hazard.

Fluoride Free Fairbanks Web Archive

Marlboro water flooded with fluoride
Stuck valve in treatment plant caused toxic release

Worcester, Massachussetts
Population: 38,000

Worcester Telegram & Gazette
October 25, 2003
by Steven H. Foskett Jr, Telegram & Gazette Staff

In the reports about this accident, an important error is being made. The concentration of fluoride (24 ppm) caused by this malfunction, is 24 times higher than normal, not 6 times higher than normal, as is being reported. When communities fluoridate water, they usually add 1 ppm fluoride (range = 0.7 - 1.2 ppm). They NEVER add 4 ppm fluoride. The 4 ppm fluoride concentration refers to the EPA's Maximum Contaminant Level. EPA's Maximum Contaminant Level of 4 ppm is NOT the "optimal" concentration of fluoride. It is, instead, the maximum level of fluoride that a community can have in their water without being mandated by the federal government to remove it.

Thus, a correct summation of the fluoride accident would read as follows:

The fluoride levels were 24 times higher than the levels added to water for fluoridation (1 ppm) and 6 times higher than the EPA's Maximum Contaminant Level (4 ppm).

A malfunctioning valve at a local water station caused nearly six times the normal amount of fluoride to flow into drinking water in parts of the city yesterday, state and local officials said.

Residents and businesses along Millham Street, Boundary Street and lower sections of Robin Hill Road and the surrounding area were instructed to flush the hot and cold taps in their faucets for at least 10 minutes.

Martin J. Suuberg, Central Massachusetts regional director for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said local authorities told the DEP that as of last night, there were no reports of illness or injury caused by the affected water.

Officials were confident yesterday that, along with discarding any ice cubes, baby milk, beverages and meals that may have been made with the affected water, flushing out the pipes was all that was needed to restore normal levels of fluoride.

A DEP flier distributed to residents and businesses advised them to take extreme care when flushing their pipes, and not to come into contact with the water, which could cause burning, skin irritation or both. The flier assured residents that the problem had been fixed, but still requested that they take proper precautions.

Mr. Suuberg said that from around 10 a.m. to noon yesterday, there was a "chemical overfeed of fluoride" into the water system.

He said that officials at the Millham Water Treatment Plant told the DEP that a valve malfunction allowed a concentrated level of fluoride - which is normally used in the water to fight tooth decay in the city - to flow into the water system.

"A regular level of fluoride in the system is under four parts per million," Mr. Suuberg said. "After two hours, tests showed the fluoride level at 24 parts per million."

Mr. Suuberg said it is the first time he has seen such a concentrated amount of fluoride flow into a community's water.

Doran Crouse, assistant commissioner of the city's Public Works Department, said he was pleased with how the city handled the situation. He said there was a potential for disaster, but he said the problem was contained rather quickly.

Mr. Crouse said he estimated that 30 to 50 customers in an area about one mile square were affected. He said workers from the plant went from door to door yesterday afternoon, making residents and businesses aware of the situation and giving them instructions on what to do with their water.

Workers flushed affected water mains in the area, and Mr. Crouse said that yesterday afternoon fluoride levels were returning to normal. The DEP flier said discoloration of drinking water after the mains were flushed could be expected, but it posed no immediate health risks.

The plant - which is not the city's only source of water - was shut down, and Mr. Crouse said that as workers tested the water farther and farther away, the fluoride level returned to normal.

Fluoride Free Fairbanks Web Archive

Fluoride Overfeed at a Well Site near an Elementary School in Michigan

Portage Michigan
Population 28,000
Note: Well/fluoride pump operated by the City of Portage

Journal of Environmental Health
Vol. 65, 2002
by Kirpal S. Sidhu and Robert O. Kimmer

Introduction

A fluoride overfeed occurred on Wednesday, July 3, 1991, at a well site near an elementary school in Portage, a suburb of Kalamazoo, Michigan. The incident was reported to the Michigan Department of Public Health on July 5, 1991, which led to the authors' involvement and active participation. The fluoride overfeed resulted from two circumstances: 1) a problem in the design of the well system circuit and 2) damage to the logic card that controlled the fluoride solution pump. The pump control logic card appeared to have been damaged by an electrical surge or spike. As a result of the damage, the logic card simulated a situation in which the well pump kept running, and the fluoride solution pump continued to pump solution into the well pump discharge pipe. Although the control system had been tested after installation, the problem was not evident because the test procedure did not include detection for this kind of damage.

The overfeed incident resulted in a high concentration of fluoride (92 milligrams per liter [mg/LI) in water that came from a drinking fountain at the school. At least seven students who drank water from the fountain became ill. All summer activities at the school were suspended, and the use of drinking water at the location was immediately stopped. The use of drinking water at the school resumed when the fluoride concentration had been adjusted to optimal levels.

The objectives of this paper are to briefly describe the causes of the fluoride overfeed, the toxicology of fluoride, the reported adverse health effects, and the improvements made to the water system pump controls to prevent recurrence. A summary of this work has appeared in minutes of the Biannual Meeting of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA)-sponsored Federal-State Toxicology and Risk Analysis Committe.

Fluoride Free Fairbanks Web Archive

Norfolk could teach Wakefield about posting water alerts

Wakefield, Massachussetts
Population 25,000

Boston Herald
August 09, 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."

Fluoride Free Fairbanks Web Archive

City reports over-release of flouride

Asheboro, North Carolina
Population 21,000

Courier-Tribune
June 30, 2010
Staff reports

ASHEBORO — The City of Asheboro water treatment plant experienced a malfunction in the fluoride distribution system Tuesday morning, resulting in an over-release of that chemical.

A news release said that between 10-11:30 a.m., approximately 60 gallons of fluoride scheduled for slow release over a 24-hour-period was dispersed into the water system. When staff became aware of the tank malfunction they immediately isolated water lines and began flushing hydrants. In addition, staff contacted the Public Water Supply Section of the NC Department of Environmental and Natural Resources and the Randolph County Public Health Department.

As the hydrants were flushed, staff conducted laboratory tests of water throughout the system. As of 4 p.m., fluoride levels in the city’s system have returned to the normal operating range. Testing determined that the highest level of fluoride that reached any part in the system was 10 ppm. Maximum allowable levels are 4 ppm.

The over-fluoridation was limited to the area west of US 220 and households in the vicinity of the water treatment plant (this area includes Sunset Avenue from Oakhurst to North Ridge, Rolling Road, Crestview Street, Winslow Avenue, West Street, Norman Street, Hamilton Street, Russell Street, North Ridge Street, Rushwood Road, Danwood Street, Old Farmer Road from 220 Bypass to Register Street, Powhatan Avenue from 220 Bypass to South McCrary Street, Lewallen Road from Klaussner Furniture to Old Farmer Road).

Residents and businesses in the affected area are not advised to boil water. Instead, they should turn on a faucet and allow it to run for 2-3 minutes to clear their individual water lines as an additional precautionary measure. City staff expect limited exposure due to the time the fluoride was released, the low levels detected during hydrant testing and the quick action taken to flush water lines. According to the State Division of Public Health toxicologists, no long-term health effects should be expected from this minimal exposure. Residents who consumed a large quantity of water during this period may possibly experience short-term effects such as an upset stomach, vomiting or diarrhea. The temporary effect from skin contact, such as showering, might include slightly irritated skin, the news release said.

Residents with specific health concerns are encouraged to consult their physician.

Fluoride Free Fairbanks Web Archive

Fluoride prompts restrictions at Anchorage bases

Ft. Richardson and Elmendorf AFB
Total Population: 12,000+ (6,600 Elmendorf AFB, and 5,300 Ft. Richardson, plus commuters)

The Associated Press
April 28, 2010

ELMENDORF AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska - Officials are telling personnel, residents and visitors to an air force base and adjacent Army post in Anchorage to not drink water from base sources.

Elmendorf Air Force Base officials say workers found elevated level of fluoride at the Fort Richardson Water Treatment Plant early Wednesday morning. The plant provides water to both Elmendorf and Fort Richardson.

Base officials say no one should drink water from the base supply while testing is being conducted.

Fluoride Free Fairbanks Web Archive

Excess fluoride taints water at Anchorage military bases
POISONOUS: High levels can lead to stomach ailments and even death

Ft. Richardson and Elmendorf AFB
Total Population: 12,000+ (6,600 Elmendorf AFB, and 5,300 Ft. Richardson, plus commuters)

http://www.adn.com/
April 29, 2010
By ELIZABETH BLUEMINK, ebluemink@adn.com

Military officials said Wednesday they hope to restore clean drinking water to Elmendorf Air Force Base and Fort Richardson soon.

But as of Wednesday evening they were warning anyone who lives, works on or visits the two posts in Anchorage not to drink the water due to excess fluoride in the supply.

The water also should not be used to brush teeth and wash or cook food. Any ice cubes made since Tuesday should be thrown out, according to the Fort Richardson Water Treatment Plant. The fluoride cannot be boiled out of the water, according to Fort Richardson medical staff.

The fluoride problem was discovered at about 3:30 a.m. Wednesday at the plant but it is possible that it began as early as Tuesday afternoon, said Bob Zacharski, site manager for Doyon Utilities, a Native corporation subsidiary that runs the Fort Richardson plant, which supplies water to Fort Richardson and Elmendorf.

He and Fort Richardson officials said the fluoride levels in the utility's drinking water are tested daily at noon and were safe as of Tuesday's test.

Early Wednesday, a plant worker adding fluoride to a device that injects it into the water grew suspicious that the system had malfunctioned and was demanding too much fluoride.

Emergency testing determined that the level of fluoride exceeded the state's safety threshold. The utility then notified the bases and began frequent testing of the water and flushing it out of the drinking-water system.

The bases started notifying workers and their families early Wednesday morning about the fluoride problem via phone calls and notices posted in buildings. The bases provided alternate water at dining halls, schools and the hospital.

Some testing by the utility showed that its water contained more than double the amount of fluoride considered safe for drinking. The safety threshold for fluoride in water is 4 parts per million but the utility's water contained as much as 11 parts per million, he said.

It's unlikely, however, that 11 parts per million of fluoride would cause anyone to suffer symptoms associated with fluoride poisoning, said Dr. Paul Friedrichs, commander at the Elmendorf hospital.

Those symptoms can include an upset stomach, vomiting and diarrhea.

One of the worst fluoride poisonings in U.S. history happened in Hooper Bay in 1992, when one man died and more than 200 were sickened. Tests showed more than 40 times the safe amount of fluoride in the village drinking water supply.

Fluoride is added to the water at drinking-water plants throughout the United States, including the one at Fort Richardson, to prevent tooth decay. But fluoride levels have to be monitored carefully because chronic ingestion of fluoride is a proven cause of tooth enamel damage in children.

Elmendorf health suggestions

Do not drink tap water or use it to cook or brush teeth until further notice.

It is OK to use tap water to wash hands, clean food-preparation areas (dry them before using), do laundry and use the dishwasher. Dishes should be dried off before using them.

It is safe to use ice made before 4 p.m. Tuesday and to eat fruit or vegetables washed and dried since then. Any food washed under tap water after 4 p.m. Tuesday should be thrown away.

If you show any of the symptoms of fluoride poisoning (nausea, stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea), contact your primary care doctor. Go to the emergency room if symptoms are severe (uncontrolled vomiting and diarrhea).

For questions about water safety at the two bases, call 552-3985 or 552-3965. For questions about food safety in relation to fluoride, call 551-4000. Contact a primary-care doctor for personal health queries.

Fluoride Free Fairbanks Web Archive

Water at local military bases declared safe to drink
FLUSH PIPES: Officials say to run all taps for 15 minutes before use

Ft. Richardson and Elmendorf AFB
Total Population: 12,000+ (6,600 Elmendorf AFB, and 5,300 Ft. Richardson, plus commuters)

Anchorage Daily News
April 30, 2010
By ELIZABETH BLUEMINK, ebluemink@adn.com

Defense officials announced Thursday evening that it is safe to drink tap water at Fort Richardson and Elmendorf Air Force Base.

For about two days, the water supply for the two bases was contaminated with excessive amounts of fluoride.

Starting Wednesday morning, base officials warned people who live and work at the two installations against drinking, brushing their teeth or cooking with the tap water.

In a press release issued at 5 p.m. Thursday, Elmendorf officials said people at home at both facilities should turn on all of their hot and cold water taps and allow them to run for 15 minutes to flush out any old water that remains in the pipes.

The faulty equipment that caused the fluoride contamination has been removed from service, according to the Elmendorf release.

Fort Richardson Water Treatment Plant workers discovered early Wednesday morning that the level of fluoride in the water exceeded the state's safety threshold. That threshold for fluoride is 4 parts per million but the water contained as much as 11 parts per million, a utility official said.

The water is now testing below 2 parts per million, defense officials said Thursday evening.

Fluoride Free Fairbanks Web Archive
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Outbreak ofAcute Fluoride Poisoning Caused by a Fluoride Overfeed, Mississippi, 1993

Poplarville, Mississippi
Population 3,000

Public Health Reports
September/October, 1997
by Alan D. Penman, Bruce T Brackin, and Randal Embrey

Objective. To determine the extent and confirm the cause of an August 1993 outbreak of acute fluoride poisoning in a small Mississippi community, thought to result from excess fluoride in the public water supply.

Methods. State heafth department investigators interviewed patrons of a restaurant where the outbreak first became manifest and obtained blood and urine samples for measurement of fluoride levels. State heafth department staff conducted a random sample telephone survey of community households. Public heafth environmentalists obtained water and ice samples from the restaurant and tap water samples from a household close to one of the town's water treatment plants for analysis. Health department investigators and town water department officials inspected the fluoridation system at the town's main water treatment plant

Results. Thirty-four of 62 restaurant patrons reported acute gastrointestinal illness over a 24-hour period. Twenty of 61 households that used the community water supply reported one or more residents with acute gastrointestinal illness over a four-day period, compared with 3 of 13 households that did not use the community water supply. Restaurant water and ice samples contained more than 40 milligrams of fluoride per liter (mg/L), more than 20 times the recommended limit, and a tap water sample from a house located near the main treatment plant contained 200 mg/L of fluoride.

An investigation determined that a faulty feed pump at one of the town's two treatment plants had allowed saturated fluoride solution to siphon from the saturator tank into the ground reservoir and that a large bolus of this overfluoridated water had been pumped accidentally into the town system.

Conclusions. Correct installation and regular inspection and maintenance of fluoridation systems are needed to prevent such incidents.

Fluoride Free Fairbanks Web Archive

Middletown Maryland Latest City to Receive Toxic Spill of Fluoride in their Drinking Water

Middletown, Maryland
Population 2,800

The Townsend Letter for Doctors
October 1994
by Robert Carton

Officials of Middletown, MD warned residents by radio in November, 1993 not to drink or cook with city water due to high fluoride levels. Malfunctioning fluoridation equipment caused excessive fluoride levels of 70 parts per million (ppm) in the distribution system. This is 70 times the normal level and almost 18 times the level considered safe by EPA. The Maryland State Department of Health stated that they did not plan to do a health survey to determine if any residents experienced symptoms of fluoride poisoning.

Based on other fluoridation accidents, the 70 ppm of fluoride is sufficient to cause vomiting, diarrhea, skin rashes, fever, and other effects. In 1986, a fluoridation accident in New Haven (North Brantford), Connecticut, resulted in the public receiving water with 51 ppm fluoride for twelve hours. A health survey, conducted four days later on 312 persons, determined that 55 of those experienced symptoms of fluoride poisoning which lasted from 1-60 hours.

Robert Carton, Ph.D., local scientist and editor of the newsletter The Fluoride Report, stated that “Quick action by Middletown authorities may have prevented a public health disaster.” Dr. Carton referred to an accident that occurred last year in Hooper Bay, Alaska where 260 were poisoned and one man died. Levels of fluoride in Hooper Bay drinking water were thought to have been 150 ppm or less.

Middletown and state workers stayed up all night flushing out the distribution system. Although the town was warned by radio not to drink the water, many residents did not become aware of the problem until they read their morning paper, or talked to neighbors. Town and state officials had considered calling out the National Guard to go door to door to warn residents of the high fluoride levels. However, Louise Snodgrass, Middletown official, stated that this action was not taken due to concern this step would frighten citizens unnecessarily. The Frederick Post reported that Middletown water is again safe. Fluoridation has not been reinstituted.

Dr. Carton also pointed out that toxic spills of fluoride in drinking water are never publicized by fluoridation promotion agencies, the Public Health Service, the National Institute for Dental Research, and the Center for Disease Control.

 

 

 

Fluoride Free Fairbanks Web Archive

It Happened Here Four Years Ago….
Accident Here Said To Be "Most Massive Spill in Fluoridation History"
Fluoride Use Critic Termed It "A Near Disaster"

Harbor Light, Harbor Springs, Michigan
December 2-8, 1981

Four years ago last month, Harbor Springs had its name added to the list of recently-recorded accidents in communities where fluoride is mechanically added to the water supply.

Quick response to citizen inquiries at the time by this city's water department crew coupled with fortunate timing combined to avert what one observer suggests could have been a tragedy, a massive chemical poisoning.

While the incident remained in memory its potential shocking consequence only recently was brought to attention here.

Andrew J. Craig, Sr., retired science teacher from Sherwood, Michigan and an admittedly dedicated opponent of indiscriminate fluoride use, such as in application in many communities nationwide, visited Harbor Springs late last month. He wanted to personally view the place and meet some of the people where occurred what he described as:

"The most massive, concentrated (fluoride) spill in the history of fluoridation." Had it not been for the fortunes of it being an off-season (November) and in the afternoon many more persons than the four persons who took sick could have been poisoned.

Here is what happened on a Tuesday afternoon the last week of November in 1977.

On November 22, 1977 four persons took sick apparently due to their exposure to a high concentration of fluoride in the city's drinking water supply.

The Journal of the American Water Works Association (April, 1980) labeled the accident as the first reported cases of illness in the nation resulting from a malfunctioning community fluoridation process.

At 1:10 p.m. that day a tree cut down by a local contractor on property along Hoyt Street fell toward the street and knocked out control lines to the city's water system. The control line monitors water levels at the 332,000-gallon reservoir situated on the top of Hoyt Hill.

That disruption automatically triggered into simultaneous operation three of the city's four well-water pumps. (One of the wells then remained shut down during winter months.)

The well pumps ran for approximately one and one-half minutes before being shut off.

The control line to the reservoir was repaired within the next hour and one-half and operations resumed normally.

Then reports began coming in to city hall. All was not right with the city's water.

At about 2:45 p.m. word came from the Emmet County Medical Care Facility that the water there had a "metallic taste" and that two persons had vomited after drinking it.

At about four that afternoon a resident near city hall reported the same sequence, bad tasting water followed by vomiting.

Initially, the illnesses were presumed to have been caused by the ingestion of stagnant water pumped from the Stadium well site, that had been out of use since September.

Water samples were collected for bacteriological analysis at the state-certified laboratory in Petoskey.

The water department crew moved quickly to flush those parts of the water system affected, beginning at the Medical Care Facility and working towards downtown below the bluff.

City administrative personnel contacted residents by telephone within the affected areas of the system advising them to first flush their water lines thoroughly before using.

The city crews flushed thirty six hydrants for two-three-minutes each between 4:15 and 6:15 that afternoon. Discolored water was observed coming from two of the hydrants.

City Manager Robert S. Anderson by then had notified state health department officials to inform them of the incident.

But it was not until the following day, about twenty-four hours after the control signal interruption occurred, that water department personnel on inspection of the Stadium well house discovered that the fluoride feeder was still running.

A drum of hydrofluocilicic acid which fed the water line stood empty.

Chemical feed records indicated, according to the water-works association journal, that approximately 189 pounds of acid had been pumped into the system since the pump's last regular use in September.

A second round of samples were then taken, these being sent both to Petoskey and to Lansing for analysis. Again the system was flushed.

Fluoride feed equipment in the other three wells was checked and found to be operating normally.

According to the report in the Waterworks Journal test samples from the Stadium well discharge line "showed a very high level of fluoride, 1,000 milligrams per liter."

High levels of iron also were also shown to be present. This was judged to be caused apparently by the "contact between concentrated hydrofluosilicic acid and the water mains." And higher than normal fluoride levels also were reported present in the tested water a week after the "overfeed." Bacteriological analysis, further, proved negative.

Fluoride-use critic Craig describes the chemical as "so toxic you wouldn't believe." He said that three grams of the fluoride ion can kill a child.

In its comments on fluoride ion toxicity, the report in the Waterworks Journal notes the following:

"Most episodes of acute fluoride poisoning are caused by the ingestion of fluoride-containing insecticides. Reports of illness caused by the ingestion of excessively fluoridated drinking water are rare."

Engineers from the Michigan Department of Public Health on December 7 and 8th visited Harbor Springs in an effort to pinpoint precisely the cause of the apparent fluoride "over-feed." They determined that the fluoride feed pump at the Stadium well house was not electrically interconnected with the well motor; that, further, very little movement was required to trip the switch to the on position. The engineers determined that "on occasion, the control mechanism could allow the fluoride feeder to continue to operate after well motor shutdown." This situation was found only at the Stadium pump site.

A check of the chemical feed records showed, the report continued, that 189 pounds of twenty-five percent hydrofluosilicic acid remained in the drum at the Stadium well house following the last regular operation of the well in September, 1977. That large amount could not have been fed into the system within the twenty-four hour period that elapsed between activation of the Stadium well on November 22, 1977 and the subsequent discovery of the operating fluoride feed pump, the engineers further determined.

A further check of the operating records found that on November 1, 1977 for an undetermined reason, the Stadium well had operated for four-tenths of a minute. They then concluded:

"It is likely that the mechanical switch at the Stadium well failed to turn the fluoride feeder off after the well shutdown, and that the feeder subsequently delivered the volume of acid remaining in the drum (189 pounds) to the well discharge line. The acid apparently remained in the pipe, which travels uphill for about fifty feet at a 60-degree angle until it was pumped out into an active part of the distribution system on November 22nd."


It Happened Here Four Years Ago…
Response to Fluoride Accident Helps To Guard Against Recurrence
PART II

Harbor Light, Harbor Springs, Michigan
December 9-15, 1981

The accidental overdose of fluoride into the Harbor Springs water system four years ago on November 22, 1977, has been described by Andrew J. Craig, Sr., an admitted critic of fluoride's indiscriminate use, as "The most massive concentrated spill in the history of fluoridation."

Quick response by the Water Department crew here and by the city's administrative staff served to limit the hazards of what might well have proved, Mr. Craig suggested during a recent visit here, a tragedy, massive chemical poisoning.

He cited the time of day (afternoon) and the season (November) as helpful also in limiting the spill's potentially tragic effects.

Four persons fell ill briefly, two of whom reported having vomited after tasting the water. The affected system was promptly and repeatedly flushed.

That accident was reported in some detail in the Harbor Light newspaper, issued dated December 1, 1977. Omitted, however, in that account, was the extent of and reason for any fluoride overdose.

At the time, officials, perhaps knowing only then as much as was reported, reported test results conducted at Petoskey's waste water plant free from bacteria. That was the main concern at the outset.

A fluoride overdose went unmentioned. (For complete summary of the sequence of events leading to the accidental fluoride overdose refer to last week's Harbor Light).

More test samples were sent to the State's Health Department for analysis. Those results had not been received by the time of that news account back in 1977. These were to find, according to an April, 1980 account in the Journal of the American Waterworks Association, elevated fluoride levels in nearly all samples. The repot noted that:

"Differences in results given for state laboratory and Petoskey laboratory analysis occurred because samples were collected at different times on the indicated date. The Stadium well discharge line showed a very high level of fluoride (1000 milligrams per liter).

"High levels of iron were also present, apparently caused by the contact between concentrated hydrofluosilicic acid and the water mains. Elevated fluoride levels were still present one week after the overfeed. The results of all bacteriological analyses were negative."

A malfunctioning fluoride water feeder, investigators discovered, had caused to be pumped into the city's water system approximately 189 pounds of hydrofluosilicic acid.

In reporting about fluoride ion toxicity, the Waterworks Journal's account noted the "reports of illness caused by the ingestion of excessively fluoridated drinking water are rare."

That accident thus put Harbor Springs among the nation's rare. Four persons did take sick. A fluoride overdose most likely was to blame.

The Waterworks Journal noted, too, that "as little as 16 milligrams of sodium fluoride (29 mg fluoride) can cause vomiting.

"The gastrointestinal symptoms, presumably caused by local irritation, tend to be rapid in onset and short in duration," the report notes, adding: "Long-term effects from low level one-time exposure have not been reported and are not expected."

Subsequent re-creation of the incident for purposes of estimating levels of fluoride ion present found that concentrations at the Medical Care Facility were 356 mg per liter and 255 mg per liter at the city hall.

Maximum fluoride concentrations, estimators noted were put at 2,400 mg per liter at the Care Facility and 1,700 mg per liter at the city hall. The report then noted:

"Assuming that a dose of 29 mg of fluoride can induce vomiting, the ingestion of as little of 12 milliliters of waster at the Medical Care Facility or 17 ml in the city hall area could have induced vomiting."

In its conclusions and recommendations, the Journal article noted that:

"The four persons who became ill on Nov. 22, 1977 in Harbor Springs, Mi., apparently suffered the first reported cases of illness in the US resulting from a malfunctioning community fluoridation system… This type of incident could occur in any municipal water system that does not employ proper control of chemical feed equipment. The Stadium well at Harbor Springs has been rewired to provide the necessary electrical interlock between the chemical feeder and the well monitor.

Former city manager Robert S. Anderson Jr., with David Leland and Kenneth Powell contributed to the account that appeared in the American Waterworks Association Journal report of the fluoride accident here.

WHAT HAPPPENED
Three Residents Get Sick When Accident Caused Distasteful Water to Flow Into City's System

Harbor Light, Harbor Springs, Michigan
December 1-7, 1977
By Kendall P. Stanley, Harbor Light Staff

A freak accident that caused the start-up of three city water wells last Tuesday pumped tainted water through water lines at the east end of the city, resulting in three residents becoming ill after drinking the water.

The water has since been tested and contained no bacteria.

Those reporting illness following the incident were Beverly Johnson, 379 Bay Street; Brian Bates of Conway, an employee of the Emmet County Medical Care Facility and Norman Girard, 77, of Hughston Road, who was visiting at the Care Facility.

Mr. Girard was hospitalized for three hours on Tuesday and released; he is now doing fine. Mr. Bates returned to his job the next day.

The area affected by the water, which was pumped from the city's Stadium well, included upper Roaring Brook, water lines along M-131 (that serve the Care Facility), portions of Zoll Street, Bay Street as far west as Judd Street, Judd Street, and Main Street from Judd to about City Hall.

An area contractor, Alvin Lightfoot, was removing a tree on property located on Hoyt Street, between Pine and M-131, when the tree dropped toward the street, knocking out control lines to the city's water system (see related story on system operation).

The disruption caused the city's automatic circuitry to turn on three of the four city wells (one is closed for the winter months), and the wells were shut down within one and one-half minutes, noted city manager Robert S. Anderson.

"Apparently the care center then called, and told us about the bad looking water. We started to check, and we heard that people had gotten sick," Mr. Anderson stated. City Water Superintendent William Moser then began to take water samples at various locations for testing, and work began on flushing the water system.

By Friday, bacteriological tests done at the Petoskey waste water plant indicated that no bacteria was present in the water, but that there was some iron present.

"The water tasted just like iron," Mr. Moser states, and reports on the iron content indicated the content was in the range where persons can detect iron, 1 to 2 parts per million.

Additional water samples were sent to the State Health Department for analysis; the results of those tests have not returned to the city.

"By the next day, we had the water pretty much flushed out of the system, at least the main lines," Mr. Anderson related. Homeowners in the affected areas were asked to flush their home lines.

At the Care Facility, the lines were flushed after the two persons became ill, according to William Moulton, administrator of the Facility. No patients in the facility were affected, he stated, as they already had water in their rooms, and all lines were cleaned out.

"I called the Michigan Department of Environmental Protection, the State Health Department, Williams and Works and Bidstrup-Billington (the last two are engineering firms for the city), and they indicated it was probably brackish, stale water in the well, with some iron build-up," Mr. Anderson said.

"The whole situation was a freak problem. We plan to analyze the well problem, and we have taken that well off the system," he said.

"I think the people got sick because of a big slurp of water they took that didn't smell or taste like the water here. It may be very safe to drink, and of the same quality that some communities get all the time, but its not our normal, high quality water," the city manager injected.

The test results were not received until Friday due to a 48-hour incubation period for the bacteria culture.

"It was a puzzle that we have to figure out, so it won't happen again," Mr. Anderson said.

How About a Greenish-Brown Bourbon and Water?

Harbor Light, Harbor Springs, Michigan
December 1-7, 1977

The water problem experienced by the city last week had at least one light moment.

As related by a city official, checking the water supply at city hall, a resident approached him holding a glass of greenish-brown liquid, and demanded to know what the city was doing with the water.

When asked if the water had come out of the tap that way, the resident responded, "No, it started out as a good bourbon and water."

When relayed to a state health official, the official noted that the alcohol in the bourbon reacted with the iron that was present in the water, causing the greenish cast to the brown water-brown bourbon combination.

HOW WATER SYSTEM WORKS
Understanding Our City's Water System

Harbor Light, Harbor Springs, Michigan
December 1-7, 1977
By Kendall P. Stanley, Harbor Light Staff

The water problems experienced by Harbor Springs last week were triggered by the city's automatic water system, controlled by a thin line running from the city reservoir, on the top of Hoyt Hill, to the water plant at the foot of the east hill on Zoll Street.

The level of the reservoir, which holds 335,000 gallons of water, controls the pumps via an automatic system of pump switching.

When the control lines broke coming from the reservoir, the indicator in the plant, at about 1:10 pm, dropped to zero, which immediately switched on three of the city's four wells. The city's four wells are:

1. The Bull Moose Hill well, the city's first. Redrilled in 1965, it is 90 feet deep and can pump 450 gallons per minute. Due to a lowered demand, the well is taken off the automatic circuitry in the winter months and is shut down.

2. The Peffer well. Located on Peffer Street between Lake Road and Summit Street, the well was originally drilled in 1961, and was redrilled in 1975. The well can pump 525 gallons per minute.

The city had problems with rust and iron at that well at the time it was redrilled; the problems were solved by the addition of a layer of castor oil on top of the water in the old casing.

3. State Street Well. Located just north of Lake Road, the well was the last the city drilled, in 1966. It has the smallest capacity of any of the wells, at 300 gallons per minute.

4. The Stadium Well, just west of the Ottawa Indian Stadium. This well has the largest capacity of any well, 700 gallons per minute. It is the second well drilled by the city, in 1953.

The main water load during the winter months is handled by the Peffer well, as it equalizes the water system easily, notes William Moser, head of the city water department.

During the summer months, when water demand is high, all four wells are in operation.

The Stadium well, which caused the brackish water problem for city water customers, has not been in use since August.

As the reservoir indicated no water, the wells came on in sequence: first Peffer, then State, and finally the Stadium well. Mr. Moser ordered all wells shut off.

"We knew there was something wrong with the system, because the reservoir level could not drop like that," Mr. Moser said. The demand for water drops drastically here in the winter months. The city during the winter months pumps less than 400,000 gallons per day, compared to 1,200,000 gallons a day in the summer.

The Stadium well provides a large share of that water. At 180 feet deep, the well is a flowing well, although the water does not flow directly into the system. A check valve and low "head," driving power behind the water, prevent the water from flowing directly into the water system of the community.

Employed with water department for the past 23 years, Mr. Moser could not recall an incident such as last Tuesdays having occurred in the past.

"Every time something like this happens, it makes you aware of more things to do. We knew the well should be reworked; the maximum time for a well to be pulled and reworked is 10 years. A lot of times things like that depend on money, and we were working on other items," he said.

"I know I've got rusty water in the well, and may have a problem there," he noted, "But until I get the other problems cleared up I'm not going to the well."

"I think we reacted quickly and calmly. My first concern was contamination, by bacteria, and the people in Petoskey were very helpful in that regard," Mr. Moser said.

In the summer months, two water samples a week are tested for bacteria, and in the winter two samples are checked twice a month, both for bacteria and fluorine content. (See story on water quality elsewhere in this issue).

Water samples have never indicated a bacteria problem here, he said.

On Friday, water department crews were still taking water samples in the affected area, and as Mr. Moser checked the color of the water, and dipped a finger in to a sample drop, he commented, "Now that's what Harbor Springs water is supposed to taste like."

Fluoridated Since 1962
Harbor Springs Blessed With Abundance Of Pure, Clean Water
HARD, TOO

Harbor Light, Harbor Springs, Michigan
December 1-7, 1977

Unlike many communities in the United States, Harbor Springs is blessed with an abundance of pure, clean water. So pure, in fact, that the city does not have to treat the water in any way.

"The only thing we do is fluoridate, which we've done since 1962, notes William Moser, water department superintendent.

The water is continually tested for bacteria and fluorine content, and once every five years the State Department of Health runs a complete analysis of the city water supply.

That five year review was done in 1976, with samples collected on November 19.

The review shows traces amounts of many chemicals, including calcium, fluoride, chloride, nitrate, sodium, potassium, manganese, sulfate, silica, and bicarbonate and minerals such as iron, copper, zinc, cadmium, lead, silver, arsenic, barium, selenium, mercury and chromium.

The chemistry adds one dimension to what is healthy water - it is "hard," with a mineral content; its main attribute being that soap has a hard time lathering.

"Our water is hard, and the hardness hasn't changed in the years I've been here," Mr. Moser noted.

But in spite of the hardness, the water is what most area residents have come to expect: cold, clean, and refreshing.

Fluoride Free Fairbanks Web Archive

Mysterious illness hits Hooper Bay
One dead, dozens sick

Hooper Bay, Alaska
Population 1,100

The Tundra Drums
May 28, 1992
by Marc Cowart

One Hooper Bay man is dead, his sister is hospitalized and about 30 residents are sick in a mysterious outbreak of illness in the Bering Sea coastal community.

Doctors, epidemiologists, and public health specialists rushed to Hooper Bay on Wednesday to investigate the outbreak of illness, according to Ray Dronenburg, Field Officer for the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Dominic Smith, 41, died Saturday morning after becoming ill with vomiting, diarrhea, and tingling and numbness in his extremities on Friday, according to his wife Janet.

Smith's sister Melba Joseph was transported to the Yukon-Kuskowkim Delta Regional Hospital critical care unit on Saturday with symptoms similar to Smith's, according to Dr. Donn Kruse, medical director of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. Joseph was repored to be in good condition Tuesday, Kruse said.

Two other Hooper Bay residents reported having symptoms identical to Smith's, however the did not require hospitalization, Kruse said.

About 30 people reported less serious "flu-like" symptoms, Kruse said.

The outbreak of disease has villagers very worried, according to Hooper Bay resident George Ford.

"People are scared, they don't know what's happening," Ford said.

Hooper Bay officials shut down one of the two public wells in the village, the well where both Smith and Joseph drew their water in the main section of town, Ford said. Another well at the village washeteria remained open and some residents were drawing water at school, he said.

Dr. Kruse said the well water would be tested but by Wednesday there was still not enough information to determine the cause of Smith's death or of the illness affecting others.

An autopsy was performed on Smith Tuesday, but autopsy results were not expected until Thursday, Kruse said.

Until the autopsy results are in, health officials don't know if the illness was the cause of Smith's death, Kruse said. "It could have been something like a heart attack or stroke, we won't know until the results are in."

Kruse said health officials were taking the illness outbreak very seriously. "We're being very aggressive if people have symptoms. One person has died, we're nervous about this."

Fluoride Free Fairbanks Web Archive

Hooper Bay illnesses may be tied to excess fluoride

Hooper Bay, Alaska
Population 1,100

The Tundra Drums
June 4, 1992
by Marc Cowart

The death of a Hooper Bay man on May 23 and a flu-like illness which hit dozens of village residents may be linked to a faulty pump which put high concentrations of fluoride into the water of one of the communities two public wells, according to health officials.

An Anchorage doctor claimed fluoride is so poisonous it should not have been put in the village's water in any amount in the first place.

Dominic Smith, 41, died after experiencing vomiting, diarrhea and numbness and tingling in his extremities.

Smith's sister, Melba Joseph, also experienced similar symptoms and was hospitalized in the critical care facility at the Yukon Delta regional Hospital in Bethel.

Smith, Joseph, and about 30 other villagers who became ill with less serious flu-like symptoms all drank water from one of two public wells in the village.

State epidemiologist Dr. Michael Bellar said the illness experienced by the villagers and by Joseph were "consistent" with fluoride poisoning.

However, Bellar said he could not be sure fluoride poisoning caused Smith's death until the final results of an autopsy were released. The autopsy results were expected sometime this week.

Bellar said extensive tests run on one Hooper Bay resident showed the person was ill "most likely from fluoride poisoning."

Bellar said extreme symptoms, like those experienced by Joseph, required "very high dosages, (extreme symptoms) couldn't occur without extremely high levels, hundreds of times the normal amount."

Bellar said all of the villagers except Smith recovered and there were no further reports of illness once the well water was no longer being consumed.

Anchorage physician Dr. Robert Rowen, said fluoride is so toxic it should not be put in drinking water.

"There is no safe level of fluoride. It is one of the most toxic substances known. Natives are being poisoned by dumping this poisonous product into their water."

Rowen pointed out sodium fluoride, the chemical used to fluoridated water, is the active ingredient in rat poison and some insect poisons.

Engineers from the Department of Environmental Conservation arrived in Hooper Bay last week to examine the suspect well. The engineers found a problem with the well pump and were able to duplicate the process which allowed large concentrations of fluoride into the water, according to department spokesperson Debby Bloom.

There are two pumps in the well, one to pump water and one to inject chlorine and fluoride into the water. The injection pump won't come on unless the water pump switch is on, Bloom said.

However, engineers found the water pump was switching on but not delivering very much water. The injection pump injected chlorine and fluoride at levels used for normal water flow, leading to high concentrations of the two chemicals, Bloom said.

DEC engineers will be examining the water pump further this week to determine exactly how it failed, Bloom said.

The pump system in the Hooper Bay well is old and was scheduled to be replaced this summer. The well remains shut down and the new equipment will be installed before it goes back into operation, Bloom said.

Newer well systems like the system to be installed in Hooper Bay have an additional water flow sensor which prevents over-injection of chlorine and fluoride if water flow is reduced, Bloom said.

Villages having the older style well pump systems will be notified about the problem found in Hooper Bay, Bloom said.

Fluoride is added to drinking water because it helps prevent tooth decay, according to Dr. Bellar.

"It's and overwhelming consensus (fluoride) is beneficial. Fluoride is added to many thousands of water supplies."

State epidemiologist Dr. Brad Gessner said the effects of low levels of fluoride had been extensively studied.

Dr. Rowen disputed the beneficial effects of fluoride.

For everey study they have showing fluoride is good for teeth, there is another study showing it isn't. There is no confirming evidence it reduces tooth decay."

Rowen said fluoride is a cumulative poison which over time builds up in the body and can contribute to arthritis, heart disease, and cancer.

Villages have the option of using or refusing fluoride in their water supply. "If they're smart, they would get (fluoride) out," Rowen said.

Fluoride was discussed at a Lower Kuskokwim School District School Board meeing on Saturday.

School district engineer Mike Franks said the school district has never put fluoride in any village school water supply "just to avoid a similar situation."

Bethel pump house operator Billy Stuart said the Bethel water supply has been fluoridated since about 1981. However, Stuart said he had misgivings about fluoridation.

"I didn't want it in the first place."

Fluoride Free Fairbanks Web Archive

Officials still awaiting autopsy results in Hooper Bay fluoride incident

Hooper Bay, Alaska
Population 1,100

The Tundra Drums
June 11, 1992
by Marc Cowart

The death of a Hooper Bay man last month and an illness experienced by several dozen villagers was probably the result of abnormally high levels of fluoride in the water, according to one state agency.

However, health officials are waiting for final autopsy results before definitely linking the death to fluoride.

Dominic Smith, 43, died May 23 after experiencing severe vomiting, diarrhea, and numbness and tingling of the extremities. Four other villagers experienced similar symptoms while about 30 villagers experienced less serious flu-like symptoms.

An investigation by the Department of Environmental Conservation revealed "too much fluoride was released into one of the two water sources that supply the small village in Western Alaska," according to a department press release.

The department release also said the death and illnesses were "probably as a result of abnormally high levels of fluoride in the water."

However, officials from the state Division of Epidemiology were still reluctant to blame Smith's death on fluoride pending final autopsy results.

Epidemiologist Dr. Michael Bellar said the final autopsy results may not be in for another two weeks.

There are no laboratories in Alaska with the equipment to test human tissue samples for fluoride, so samples were sent to a laboratory near Philadelphia for analysis Bellar said.

Bellar said urine samples from about 40 Hooper Bay residents were also being tested.

The state office will issue an interim report on the Hooper Bay incident sometime this week. But a final report and official cause of Smith's death will not be released until the autopsy and analysis are completed, Bellar said.

DEC has linked a faulty relay switch to the excess fluoride pumped into the Hooper Bay water system, but a final report on the cause of the fluoride mishap won't be released until next week, according to Ray Dronenburg of the Bethel DEC office.

Fluoride Free Fairbanks Web Archive

Report says fluoride killed 1, sickened 260 in Hooper Bay

Hooper Bay, Alaska
Population 1,100

The Tundra Drums
July 2, 1992
by Marc Cowart

Fluoride poisoning has been established as the cause of death of a Hooper Bay man in May and was also the cause of an illness suffered by more than 260 villagers, a number nearly 10 times more than previously reported according to a state report.

The Hooper Bay illnesses represent the largest outbreak of fluoride poisoning ever reported, the study said.

The state Department of Health and Social Services issued the preliminary report on Tuesday which covers the investigation "following an outbreak of acute fluoride poisoning, which resulted in the death of a Hooper Bay resident in May."

Hooper Bay resident Dominic Smith, 41, died May 23 after experiencing vomiting, diarrhea and tingling and numbness of the extremities.

Smith's sister also experienced similar symptoms and was hospitalized the same day. She fully recovered.

More than 260 other Hooper Bay residents also became ill with flu-like symptoms. The original reports of the incident only listed about two dozen residents as having been affected.

Smith and all who became ill had one thing in common, they had all drunk water which had come from one of the villages two public watering points. The water from the watering point was later found to have high concentrations of fluoride.

Although the final pathology report and death certificate for Smith have not been completed, fluoride poisoning as the cause of death is "very, very likely," according to epidemiologist Dr. Mike Bellar.

"The pathological diagnosis is not completed, but the preliminary findings pointed to one cause," Bellar said.

That cause "is consistent with fluoride poisoning," Bellar said.

Urine samples taken from villagers who became ill also showed "high levels of fluoride," Bellar said.

The preliminary report on the incident states the poisonings occurred "because of a series of events over a period of several months ending in an outbreak of fluoride poisoning from a public water source."

Those events were cause by multiple mistakes by several different agencies, according to epidemiologist Dr. Brad Gessner.

"What our epidemiological team found was the existence of multiple deficiencies in the design, maintenance, operation, regulation and management of the Hooper Bay townsite water system," Gressner said.

"This outbreak resulted in the tragic death of one resident. It is even more tragic because the water system that failed was scheduled for replacement this summer. Had the new equipment been in place, this very unfortunate incident might not have occurred."

The preliminary report also makes several recommendations to prevent such an incident from recurring. The recommendations include reviewing existing routine tests from public water systems to identify communities which have not submitted reports and a review of all village water systems to identify any which are not using "state of the art" water safety equipment.

Smith's death is the first ever reported in the U.S. where ingesting water from a public water supply caused fatal fluoride poisoning, Bellar said.

Fluoride Free Fairbanks Web Archive

Massive Fluoride Poisoning at Jonesboro Maine School

Jonesboro, Maine
Population 600

The Maine Paper
October 19, 1981
By Robert Berta

"We were told that the fluoridation program was completely safe," said Velma Pineo of Jonesboro, after 60 students and teachers and the principal himself were taken to the Downeast Community Hospital in Machias October 6 following an overdose of the chemical in the school's water supply.

"We asked what would happen if too much fluoride got into the system," Pineo recalled of questions asked at a PTA meeting held last spring to see if parents would go along with a fluoridation program at the Jonesboro Elementary School.

"We were told it couldn't happen," she said, "and if it did, it would be completely harmless to our children."

"Jonesboro, a town of about 400 people, is located eight miles south of Machias on Route one.

Based on the spring meeting, residents went ahead with a program this fall in which fluoride was mixed into the school's drinking water.

The morning the mass poisoning occurred, the victims got abdominal pains, became nauseated and vomited. They were given blood tests at the hospital, asked to drink milk there, and were later released with no further ill effects.

Tentatively, a faulty valve on the state-installed mechanical unit that injected fluoride into the school's water has been found to have caused the poisoning.

The residents of Jonesboro do not appear to be anxious to see the system hooked back up again. Some claim it will never be used again.

Pineo, whose husband Marvin is president of the Jonesboro PTA, had three children in the school, two of whom drank the water. One reported feeling poorly from the poisoning.

She stressed there was "no way" she would vote to return the fluoridation program to the school.

"I felt bad because I was one of the ones who originally voted for it," Pineo said. "But I voted for it as a benefit to the younger children, not so much my own who are in the upper grades."

Pineo now views the program with distrust. She doesn't think the system should be allowed to be used in the school's water again.

"I don't want to go through it again, and I don't think anyone else's children should have to, either," she declared.

Pineo stated that when two state government officials and one local official spoke to the parents in the community last spring, "we were misled. We should have been told there was a possibility of fluoride poisoning."

Another mother, Irene Faulkingham, had one of her two children affected by the fluoride overdose.

Her son, Albert, celebrating his 13th birthday, ate a candy bar on his way to school. He drank water from the school's drinking supply and was the first student to react to the poisoning.

School officials sent him home, originally believing he had a case of stomach flu. Later when others became sick and the suspected cause was pinpointed, Albert was taken to the hospital for treatment.

Mrs. Faulkingham said that while she had not been at the spring meeting when officials were asked questions about the fluoridation program, she had understood from other parents who did attend the meeting that the program was completely safe.

Parents were told there was "no danger" that too large a dose of fluoride would ever get into the school's water supply, she said, feeling now they were misled.

Muriel Gay had both of her children poisoned at the Jonesboro school. Her son, Carol, 13, and daughter, Jessie, 9 were stricken.

She thinks children are able to bounce back quicker than adults. She doesn't favor reinstituting the program at Jonesboro, however.

"If they can do the same thing at the dentist's, why bother putting it in the water?" she posed.

Gay doesn't believe the program will be brought back. "Too many people are skeptical of it (fluoride in the water). We don't need this kind of incident again."

Jonesboro voters will get a chance to express their views in the future. School Committee chairperson Martha Knight states the school board is waiting for an official state report. An open public meeting will be held thereafter so citizens can air their views.

Helen Snowdeal, mother of seventh grade twins Coral and Carol, said one of them took ill from the excessive fluoride. She didn't attend the meeting last spring when the fluoridation of the school's drinking water was suggested.

"At the time I was in favor of the program," she recalled, and she admitted her feelings have changed little. She called the recent accident "unfortunate" and suggested it could have happened anywhere or at any time.

Observers in the Jonesboro-Machlas area expect that when a vote is taken again to hook the fluoride dispenser back up to the school water supply, it will be rejected overwhelmingly.

School custodian Adian Smith speculated that another accident would probably never occur but also stated his expectation that taxpayers will probably never let fluoride be placed in the school's water supply again.

Mrs. Faulkingham stated she couldn't vote to return to the fluoride program.

"Watching so many kids vomiting is not a pleasant sight.

Fluoride Free Fairbanks Web Archive

High Fluoride levels temporarily shut down Old Harbor water system

Old Harbor Alaska
Population 215

Kodiak Daily Mirror
May 20, 1993
by Neli Waage

Old Harbor residents could not use water from their city supply for several hours Wednesday after a routine sampling showed high levels of fluoride.

A Public Health Service (PHS) sample of water taken May 10 showed a fluoride level 20 times higher than normal, Bruce Erickson, DEC environmental manager, said.

"Those levels are of extreme concern to us," Erickson said. He said the department's main concern is taking steps to prevent such high levels from happening again.

Levels in the 20s can cause illness and could indicated even higher levels in the system, Erickson said.

A Hooper Bay man died after drinking water with high fluoride levels last year.

Bill Rieth, environmental engineer with the DEC in Kodiak, said that by Wednesday afternoon, tests showed safe levels of fluoride in the water then in the system.

Reith and a PHS official were dispatched to the village Wednesday morning to investigate after the high levels were found.

The emergency response was activated by the DEC after the report that levels of 22 to 24 parts per million of fluoride had been found.

Officials warned that the more water with elevated fluoride a person drinks, the worse the danger becomes. Boiling water does not help and, in fact, may concentrate the fluoride even further. A normal fluoridation level is 1.1 parts per million.

Old Harbor city clerk Wanda Price said most residents were notified by phone after the warning was received by the city. A warning was also aired by KMXT public radio.

Rieth said investigation showed the fluoridator appeared to be operating normally. However, it was unplugged from the system until authorities discover what caused the problem.

Daily sampling is required. However, Erickson said, the testing kit being used by the operator was missing parts and not operating properly. Therefore the high fluoride levels earlier this month were not discovered until the sample sent to the PHA lab was processed.

No illness was reported in Old Harbor in connection with the high fluoride levels, Erickson said.