SANDY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Mayor Kurt Bradburn announced Thursday Sandy City Public Utilities Director Tom Ward would be reinstated following the completion of an independent investigation into the city’s recent water troubles.
The law firm Parsons Behle & Latimer was tasked with investigating the technical aspects, health effects, communication from city officials to the public and emergency response after drinking water developed elevated levels of lead, copper, and fluoride due to a pump malfunction in February.
It was announced a short time later Ward would step aside for the duration of the investigation.
The reported included review of thousands of documents, media responses, social media posts, and in-person interviews found that “Sandy’s operational response to the fluoride overfeed was generally within normal industry standards. Once Public Utilities employees were aware of the multiple water complaints in the same area, including complaints of illness, they responded promptly and worked diligently to follow-up on those complaints.”
The report also determined that the “city did not hide information from the public.”
Investigators also concluded that Tom Ward “generally conveyed thoughtfulness about his decisions, provided reasoning for those decisions and accepted responsibility for Public Utilities’ actions. Ward conveyed a sense of commitment to serving Sandy residents and concern that he was making correct decisions based on the information available to him at the time and taking appropriate actions to best serve residents.”
“It is easy to look back at an event with hindsight and want to make different decisions but I believe Tom made the best choices with the information he had at the time,” said Bradburn in a statement.
However, the report identified mistakes that were made, and stated that Sandy could have and should have “identified with more specificity and speed, who as impacted by the fluoride overfeed” and “communicated more information to impacted residents earlier in the event.”
“Had the City followed its emergency response plan more closely, Public Utilities’ operational and technical response would have been more organized and may have resulted in a more timely public notification.”
Ward said, “I am looking forward to getting back to work and serving the residents of Sandy. There were a lot of lessons learned from this event but I am committed to applying all of those lessons to improving the department services and our communication with residents.”