Yorktown and Somers residents were notified earlier this month that the Northern Westchester Joint Water Works (NWJWW) will no longer add fluoride to its drinking water produced at the Amawalk Water Treatment Facility.
While nearly 100 percent of Somers’ daily supply comes from Amawalk, approximately 33% of Yorktown’s drinking water comes from that plant, with the remainder provided by the Catskill Water Treatment facility, where the fluoride feed system has been offline since January 2013.
It’s a situation that Yorktown resident and dentist, Dr. Carl H. Tegtmeier, chairman of the Dental Health Planning & Hospital Dentistry Committee, insists is putting the oral health of residents, particularly children and senior citizens, at serious risk.
“It’s just unconscionable to me,” said Tegtmeier, who has been urging Yorktown officials to take action on continuing fluoridating water since 2012. “It seems like everything is taking precedence over this. The town seems to be more interested in where they will park their DPW trucks than the health of the children.”
Fluoride is a mineral that has been shown to help reduce the formation of dental cavities and tooth decay when added to drinking water at recommended levels. Prescriptions of fluoride supplements can help offset some of the lost fluoride in the water, but that’s only 50% effective, according to Tegtmeier.
“If they can’t get this right, what can they get right?” said Tegtmeier, who also charged town officials were not being truthful to the public about how many residents relied on the Amawalk plant. “They have no excuses here.”
In January 2013, following a public hearing at which several area dentists and Westchester County Health Commissioner Sherlita Amler urged the Yorktown Town Board to continue having fluoride in its water, Supervisor Michael Grace, Councilman Vishnu Patel and now-State Senator Terrence Murphy voted to add fluoride to the water supply, knowing to do so would require upgrades to both plants at an estimated cost of approximately $250,000.
According to the NWJWW, the fluoride feed system at the Catskill plant is “under engineering review” for an upgrade, with construction expected to be completed in 2019. Due to hydraulics associated with Yorktown’s distribution system, NWJWW officials stated they were unable to provide “an optimal level of fluoride” to all residents unless fluoride is added at both facilities, thus the decision was made, with input by the county and state health departments, to temporarily discontinue fluoridation at Amawalk.
“The town should have used the reserve fund to pay for it,” Patel said. “They should have done it a long time ago. He (Grace) has neglected everything.”
Grace explained the town’s general fund balance cannot be used for Water District infrastructure and said Yorktown was “in the process” of applying for grants and have recently obtained a study grant ($30,000) to address the issue.
“Installation of the dosing pump will be budgeted as soon as the engineering solutions are found,” Grace stated. “In the interim, the water distributed from the Amawalk plant was being fluoridated. Unfortunately, due to other infrastructure repairs that required distribution to be switched back and forth from Amawalk to the Locust Avenue plant (in Cortlandt) the inconsistent fluoridation of the water caused the Health Department to have us discontinue the service.”
The NWJWW also distributes water to residents in Cortlandt and Montrose, which have never had fluoride in their water.