The Conway Corp. Board of Directors voted Tuesday afternoon to allocate as much as $225,000 in water department reserve funds to restore fluoride to the city’s drinking water.
If this amount is not sufficient, a “very short-term” loan from the electric department would complete the project, Conway Corp. CEO Richie Arnold told be board before it approved the resolution.
If the Arkansas Department of Health and city officials expedite the process, Arnold said, fluoridation could resume as early as November.
Fluoridation was stopped after a 42-inch water pipe corroded to the point of failure in October, necessitating the shutdown of a portion of Conway Corp.’s water treatment plant that was completed in 2005. The pipe corroded because the fluoride injection port was mounted too close to a chlorine injection port, resulting in a highly acidic concentration of the two chemicals.
Conway Corp.’s customers were never informed by the city-owned utility service of the change to their drinking water. Arnold apologized on behalf of the corporation in a letter to be distributed to customers this week.
“While the operational decision to suspend fluoridation was made in October,” he writes, “we do not have plans to permanently eliminate fluoridation from our treatment process.
“We had focused all our attention on making the necessary repairs to get the full plant back in operation, and in doing so neglected to notify our customers. In hindsight, Conway Corporation should have notified the public earlier. We apologize, and pledge to keep you informed about our progress in resuming fluoridation.”
The process of resuming fluoridation will involve transferring all salvageable fluoride injection equipment to a new small building near the Roger Q. Mills Jr. Water Treatment Plant’s high-service pump area. Small amounts of a caustic agent will also be added to the fluoride to bring the PH balance to more material-friendly levels.
Alderman Mark Vaught has said the attention focused on fluoride has sparked an interesting debate. Before Tuesday’s special city council meeting he again discussed the possibility of some form of public hearing on the issue, saying that a great number of people are talking about the pros and cons of fluoridated water and that city leaders best serve their constituents by listening to what they have to say.