Excessive levels of fluoride were officially marked the cause Monday of the discolored and metallic tasting water Third Ward residents in Franklin have been experiencing since Thursday.

Surplus amounts of the chemical compound, which are believed to have been introduced to the Franklin water system around Feb. 1, through the Barrett Flats Water Treatment Plant across French Creek, were not deemed an emergency, according to City Manager Tracy Jamieson.

She said the maximum contaminant level in Pennsylvania for fluoride is 2 mg/L, and water samples taken by the Department of Environmental Protection last week resulted in a variety of levels of the substance.

Jamieson could not provide a time frame Monday evening as to when the fluoride levels would be back to normal but said residents will be notified once it does occur.

"As soon as we can have these fluoride levels get down to acceptable standards, we should be good to go," she said. "It's very unfortunate this has happened."

Everyone served by the Franklin water system is being issued a notice, including residents in Rocky Grove, Oak Hill and Miller Park.

Residents are now permitted to use their water for laundry and bathing and are encouraged to run their taps to flush out their water pipes.

"The more we run through, the more we draw and put fresh water in its place," Jamieson said.

An excess of fluoride may cause cosmetic dental problems in children under the age of 9, and children should continue to be provided with alternative sources of drinking water, Jamieson said.

At low levels, fluoride can help prevent cavities, but in moderate to severe forms, it may result in brown staining or pitting of permanent teeth, she said. The problem only occurs in developing teeth before they erupt from the gums.

Drinking water containing more than 4 mg/L of fluoride may also increase one's risk of developing bone disease.

"I don't know if these effects only occur over a sustained period of time. This is just the information DEP gave to us," Jamieson said.

City crews have been flushing out the water system, including all the water tanks and various fire hydrants.

Jamieson said lab testing will continue until the fluoride levels return to acceptable levels.

An additional problem cropped up Monday when one of the well pumps at the Ninth Street pump station broke down, Jamieson said.

"We have to keep an eye on water levels because, for emergency purposes, we certainly don't want to run dry," Jamieson said, describing the incident as "adding insult to injury."

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