Conway’s drinking water has been without fluoride since the catastrophic failure of a water line at Conway Corp.’s Roger Q. Mills Jr. Water Treatment Plant over a year ago.
Conway Corp, the city-owned utility service, did not publicly acknowledge the lack of fluoride until July, when a state official pointed out a Conway Corp. memo dated July 2 describing the mechanical failure. Conway Corp. announced soon after that fluoridation could resume in November, but delays in shipment of a new fluoride pump will mean that city residents will have to wait about a month and a half before the anti-tooth-decay substance is restored to city water.
The failure was determined to be due to a design flaw that placed the fluoride injection port too close to a chlorine injection port in the 42-inch filtered water line. The close coupling of these two injection ports, it was later discovered, led to corrosive pH levels in their immediate vicinity which caused the pipe to deteriorate to the point of failure, shutting down a portion of the plant fed by the failed water line.
The fix has involved constructing a new building removed from the plant to house fluoride injection machinery, all of which has been purchased, delivered and installed save for a specialized pump designed to handle the high acidity of pure fluoride.
“A big part of the delay is due to the recent hurricanes,” Conway Corp. CEO Richie Arnold said. “A lot of the suppliers and manufacturers (of the fluoride pumps) were in the Gulf area. As I understand it, it’s scheduled to be in on Jan. 23. Once we get those in we should begin to resume fluoridation immediately.”
he Conway Corp. Board of Directors approved in July the appropriation of as much as $225,000 to resume fluoridation. Arnold said he was unsure of the exact amount spent so far, but was certain the project would come in at under $225,000.
“It was not a huge job, but it was substantial construction,” he said. “We had to build a building, move the above-ground tank that the fluoride is stored in and re-do the piping.”
In the weeks after the public became aware of the lack of fluoridation most said they wanted it restored as soon as possible, but others, most citing health risks and a few drawing attention persistent theories that fluoride is introduced into the water supply for malevolent purposes involving government mind-control and a “dumbing down” of the masses.
In July, Conway alderman Mark Vaught suggested that a public hearing be held to gather input as to whether the city should resume fluoridation at all, but no hearing has yet materialized.