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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Fluoride leak reported at city water plant
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
City officials expect a chemical leak that began over the weekend at Martinsville's water treatment plant to pose no health hazard to the public.
While the plant was operating normally on Sunday, two employees noticed a leak in a tank containing fluorosilicic acid, said city Fire Chief Kenneth Draper.
To help prevent tooth decay, the chemical - commonly known as fluoride - is put in drinking water distributed to city utility customers, he said.
According to Draper, officials think the chemical leaked out from a transfer pump due to the corrosion of pump components. After the leak was noticed, treatment plant employees notified city emergency personnel, who were on the scene late Monday coordinating remediation efforts, Draper said.
"Most of it went into the ground between the tank and the parking lot," he said of the chemical.
No water service interruptions are anticipated, and water customers do not need to take any special precautions, Draper said based on what emergency management and health officials have told him.
About 69 percent of public water systems in the United States put fluoride in their water, and the U.S. Public Health Service has supported that practice since the early 1950s, according to various online information sources.
Despite no perceived threat to the public or the environment, city staff will monitor the leak until it is resolved, Draper said.
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality staff are expected to visit the scene today to advise city crews on how to clean up the leak, said Draper. He said he expects the leak to be fully cleaned up within a few days.