NEW BALTIMORE, Mich.—The state of Michigan informed all municipal water treatment plants on Aug. 11 that one chemical manufacturer’s certification has been revoked after this town nearly added sulfuric acid to its drinking water system due to the manufacturer’s labeling error.
The National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) has revoked the certification of PVS Nolwood as an accredited distributor of chemicals for drinking water treatment and more. The labeling error by the company resulted in an estimated $10,000 in damages to a pump and storage tank at New Baltimore’s municipal water treatment plant.
Four drums of liquid sulfuric acid were somehow mislabeled and delivered to the New Baltimore facility by PVS Nolwood, a global chemical manufacturer and distributor headquartered in Detroit.
As a wholesaler, PVS Nolwood receives chemicals in bulk on railroad tankers and offers customers the option of repackaging the products into custom package sizes. The firm promotes this service on its website.
The mislabeled drums were supposed to contain hydrofluosilicic acid, a chemical added to drinking water to help prevent tooth decay. The common name is fluoride.
NSF’s revocation notice states “certification for all products is withdrawn due to PVS Nolwood’s failure to comply with NSF certification requirements, including unauthorized use of the NSF mark and applying the NSF mark to non-certified product(s). PVS Nolwood labeled a product as hydrofluosilicic acid and applied the NSF mark to the product packaging when the product was in fact sulfuric acid.”
NSF is an independent global organization serving 180 countries. It tests, audits, and certifies products and services through a network of laboratories around the world.
A water technician at the New Baltimore plant discovered the error on July 11.
The technician was attempting to pump what he thought was fluoride from one of the drums received from PVS Nolwood, into a larger fluoride storage tank. As he began to pump, he noticed an unusual chemical reaction generating a lot of heat as the two liquids came together in the tank.
According to water department officials, the treatment plant was inactive that day, so none of the toxic material was injected into the water supply system that serves 14,000 customers.
The worker was uninjured.
In a bulletin released on Aug. 5, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy described what happened at New Baltimore as “a serious incident.” The agency said the wrong treatment chemical was delivered to a public water supplier and was mislabeled. The use of the product damaged equipment and put the plant operators and the city’s water supply at risk.
The bulletin alerted all municipal water suppliers in Michigan to make certain the chemicals they may have received from PVS Nolwood were the same product and strength that they had ordered.
“This incident is an important reminder for water suppliers to review their standard operating procedures for chemical delivery and releases,” the bulletin said.
New Baltimore mayor John Dupray told The Epoch Times, “We stopped buying from PVS Nolwood as soon as we found out about the incident. We will no longer be a customer of theirs.
“I was surprised and very concerned. It should be a concern to everyone how this mistake happened so easily with products being mislabeled. There should be better safety precautions,” said Dupray.
In-person interviews by The Epoch Times with seven New Baltimore residents, small business operators, and property owners on Friday revealed that none had heard of the near-disaster at their town’s drinking water treatment plant, or were aware of the vulnerability of the population through such facilities to human error or potential foul play.
As of Monday, no other Michigan communities have reported any similar problems at their drinking water plants.
Steven Kovac is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Michigan. He is a former small businessman, local elected official and conservative political activist. He is an ordained minister of the Gospel. Steven and his wife of 32 years have two grown daughters.