The Clarksburg Water Board will save about $20,000 a year by discontinuing the practice of fluoridating the water supply.
But water board member Paul Howe said that’s not why he voted to stop purchasing fluoride.
“I think it’s harmful to the body,” Howe said.
Board member Charlie Thayer voiced similar concerns when he voted to stop buying fluoride.
Regardless, the board stands to save some money by no longer purchasing the chemical that most health experts credit with fighting tooth decay.
The board spent $21,821 adding fluoride to the water last year, according to records obtained from the public utility.
This year, the board had spent $16,768 through April, according to the records.
Dick Welch, the board’s general manager, said the utility only adds enough fluoride to bring the level up 0.7 milligrams per liter of water — the recommended level.
“We just supplement what’s naturally produced to come up to the recommended dosage,” Welch said.
The board’s customers won’t necessarily be completely free of fluoride once the utility’s current supply runs out, Zane Satterfield said.
Satterfield is an engineering scientist with the National Environmental Service Center, a nonprofit organization whose primary focus is drinking water.
There is a “halo effect” in which people get fluoride from other sources, Satterfield said.
“If they came at it to save money on the aspect we get enough fluoride from other means, that would be a more appropriate approach, in my opinion,” he said.
Fluoride isn’t the most expensive chemical the board uses to treat water, according to its records.
The board spent $379,279 on chemicals last year, according to the records.
That included $203,930 for polyaluminum chloride; $79,573 for potassium permanganate; $55,725 for caustic soda; $16,043 for chlorine; and $2,183 for carbon.
So far this year, the board has spent $308,746 on chemicals, according to its records.
That amount includes $153,728 for polyaluminum chloride; $65,083 for potassium permanganate; $48,583 for caustic soda; $13,357 for chlorine; $9,288 for cationic polyacrylamide; and $1,937 for carbon.
Polyaluminum chloride clears river mud, making it easier for the other chemicals to kill harmful bacteria, Satterfield said.
Chlorine is a disinfectant that kills germs such as E. coli, while potassium permanganate is also a disinfectant and controls taste and odor, Satterfield said.
Caustic soda is used to adjust the pH level so the water doesn’t corrode distribution lines, which could result in lead and copper getting in the water, he added.
The water board uses carbon seasonally for taste and odor, and cationic polyacrylamide to dewater sludge, according to a breakdown on the chemicals the board uses.
The amounts of the other chemicals varies daily based on the conditions of the West Fork River, according to board documents.
The other chemicals are necessary to make the water safe to drink, said Dr. Rahul Gupta, commissioner of the state Bureau for Public Health.
“If you didn’t have those, you couldn’t properly treat the water,” Gupta said. “Take chlorine. We require all water systems to chlorinate their water. That way, we know it’s protected.”
Howe said he has no problems with the use of the other chemicals because they make the water potable.
“The others are used to make the water delivered to our houses clean and safe,” Howe said.