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24 April 2007
Officials: Jax Water Safe to Drink

By Ben Cunningham
Assistant Metro Editor
Anniston Star

JACKSONVILLE — Utility crews Monday night were working to dilute the city’s drinking water to return fluoride levels to normal, and said the water was safe to drink.

Chris Patterson, manager of the city’s water and wastewater treatment plants, said a pair of unrelated problems had work crews and water customers concerned Monday.

Around 4 a.m. the Utility Department was notified of a break in a water main along Pelham Road, Patterson said. The break allowed sediment to seep into the water system, showing up as a yellow, brown or reddish-brown color in water drawn from taps.

Utility crews initially thought the break was responsible for higher-than-normal levels of fluoride in the water, he said. But eventually, it was discovered a line had cracked in the city’s water treatment plant at Germania Springs allowing more of the chemical to seep into the system. Flouride is added to drinking water to help develop tooth enamel. Extremely high doses of the chemical can cause sickness, but Patterson said levels in Jacksonville never reached that point Monday. Some customers may have detected a metallic taste or smell in their water, he said.

Neither the sediment nor the elevated fluoride levels were dangerous, Patterson said.

“It’s not a health hazard, it’s an aesthetic problem,” he said.

Officials had urged residents to avoid drinking or cooking with the water earlier Monday.

Officials with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management visited the city to monitor and advise the city crews, Patterson said.

Customers can clear sediment from their lines by running water from their taps until it is clear, he said.

Workers Monday night were mixing fluoride-free water into the system to dilute the chemical back to normal levels. Patterson said some areas of the city already were back to normal Monday night, with the rest of town expected to follow by today or Wednesday.

About Ben Cunningham

Ben Cunningham is business editor and assistant metro editor for The Anniston Star.

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