The authority that was appointed by Borough Council declined to follow council’s recommendation that it continue to put fluoride into the water system.
Council, which held a public hearing on fluoridating the water system Monday, voted the same night for the practice to continue at permitted levels and to cover the costs associated with upgrading equipment that employees handle for fluoride.
Authority chair and council member Joseph Beigle asked during the authority’s meeting Tuesday if any members wanted to make a motion to reverse its decision, which was made in May by a 5-0 vote. The room remained silent, and Beigle said the authority would continue the process to discontinue putting fluoride into the water system.
He declined comment after the meeting.
Authority member Frank Halderman, who is also council president, said Monday he wanted the authority to reverse course, but did not attend the authority’s Tuesday meeting.
The authority’s decision could be stopped by appealing to the state Environmental Hearing Board by Nov. 7.
A letter, posted by the borough on its website Tuesday, detailed the process in which appeals should be made to the second floor of the Rachel Carson State Office Building, 400 Market St., P.O. Box 8457 in Harrisburg. Borough Manager Ralph Stewart said it is not a requirement to post the letter, but he did so at the request of council.
Several area dentists and residents, who have attended and spoke in favor of fluoridating the water system at previous council and authority meetings, reiterated their pleas for the authority to change its mind. Council members Gay Dunne and Karen Harvey have also advocated for the practice of fluoridating the water system.
One resident, Rick Murrell, argued against the practice of fluoridating water, saying he pays about $50 to filter every 200 gallons and that he was concerned about the effects of fluoridating water.
The reasons the authority voted to discontinue the practice of putting fluoride into the borough’s water system, Halderman said Monday, were safety concerns for borough employees putting it into the system and the cost of increasing the amount of fluoride into the system. Their decision was made after the state Department of Environmental Protection inspected Bellefonte’s water system facilities in March and found deficiencies.
To continue putting fluoride into the water system, however, the authority would have to build a new facility with legal safety measures. Nittany Engineering and Associates estimated Oct. 22 that a project for a new facility would be about $317,000.
Halderman said a facility could be built at a fraction of the cost, about $25,000, with a fiberglass building. After other costs, he roughly estimated such a project would be about 20 percent of the cost of the facility proposed by NEA.
A hurdle to Halderman’s idea, however, is that the facility would be housed in the historic district, which is regulated by the Bellefonte Historical Architecture Review Board. Harvey said Tuesday that she believes HARB would work with the authority to help keep costs down.
In other authority business, it approved by a 5-0 vote to purchase the PW Tech Model ES303, a $335,000 machine that will replace a 25-year-old piece of equipment that separates solids and wastes for the borough’s sewage system. The old equipment is often in need of repair and would cost the authority about $50,000 in repairs.