Athens Mayor Monte Montgomery has requested city council members to schedule a discussion on whether to add fluoride to the water system.
“It’s been so long since the council discussed fluoride, I’d like to re-educate myself,” he said.
Some cities have used fluoride in their water systems for decades. In recent years, the effectiveness of water fluoridation have been widely debated. Some counties and communities have discontinued it while others have expanded it.
“It’s about $40,000 a year,” Montgomery said.
City Council member Joe Whatley said some studies argue that the amount of fluoride residents receive from the water supply has a negligible affect on dental health.
In November 2016, when the city council awarded bids for chemicals it would use in 2017, there was a lengthy discussion on whether fluoride actually contributed significantly to dental health. At the close of the discussion, council members voted to approve the bids, except for fluoride.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality doesn’t require water systems to provide fluoride for their customers, but Athens added it years ago.
At one time, Athens was recognized for its use of fluoride. In 2008, the Texas Department of State Health Services sent a letter naming Athens as one of the communities in Texas that maintained a consistent level of optimally fluoridated water throughout the year.
“It’s an acknowledgment of public works officials doing a good thing for the community,” Texas Fluoridation Project Engineer Tom Napier said.
At one time, medical organizations such as the U.S. Surgeon General’s Office, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Dental Association, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association all supported fluoride in drinking water.
Athens water plant manager Mike Finney said the city spends a little more than $100,000 each year on chemicals to add to the water. Fluoride was one of five chemicals used.
“It can vary according to your treatment process,” Finney said. “Here, we use alum for a coagulant, caustic soda for PH control and chorine and ammonia for our disinfection.”