BELLEFONTE — A trio of dentists shared their concerns Tuesday with the borough water authority over the recent notification that the addition of fluoride in water would be coming to an end.
The authority announced on July 28 that it would be discontinuing the addition of fluoride into treated drinking water, ending the practice by about Sept. 8.
According to the notification, the decision came following a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection inspection, which determined the authority was not adding in the minimum amount of fluoride. In order to put in the minimum amount, two parts-per-million, authority costs would increase up to $30,000 annually.
The authority also looked at annual cost issues, regulatory issues, handling safety issues and renovations to meet DEP requirements, the notification said.
“These factors are why the (a)uthority has decided to discontinue adding fluoride to our water,” the notification said.
Wade Newman, of Bellefonte Family Dentistry, asked that the authority reconsider its decision.
“Fluoride is our first line of defense against dental decay,” he said, “and it affects those that are the most vulnerable and can ill afford to have dental decay because of a lack of fluoride in our water.”
Newman asked that the authority provide precise numbers as well as the cost of adding the necessary changes to the treatment center.
Frank Dankanich, who said he’s been in practice in the borough for 40 years, said fluoride has been in the borough water since he first came to town in 1975. Removal of fluoride would increase the cost to the residents of the borough as well as the hospital.
“While I’ve been in practice, I’ve seen a decrease in the amount of decay,” he said. “Not just in children. … We have an older population in our county. … By taking fluoride out of our water, we leave those people very vulnerable to dental decay.”
Richard Miller, a newer resident and fellow dentist, said every dollar spent of fluoride is $38 worth of dental care, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Borough Manager Ralph Stewart explained that a barrel of fluoride needs to be switched out at the treatment center almost every other day. A 30-gallon barrel was present at the meeting, complete with the caution labels, to give attendees an idea of what treatment operators are dealing with.
“The reason we can’t give exact numbers is because it’s based on flow,” Stewart said. “Every gallon going out the door has to have the minimum amount. It fluctuates throughout the year.”
The issue of fluoride was raised following a recent inspection of the treatment facility, he said. Previous inspectors had approved the system as is, but a new inspector noted a few months ago that the fluoride was not up to the minimum amount. She also noted other safety precautions that were needed to correspond with fluoride handling.
They weren’t terribly expensive things, he said, but it did raise the discussion point of how often the barrels are switched out as well as the safety issues of handling the chemical.
“It’s a balancing act,” Stewart said. “You’re talking about the safety of children; we’re talking about the safety of our water system operators.”
Sept. 8 was set as the end date, he said, but that date is dependent on a DEP review of the process, and a second round of notifications may be sent before the treatment ends.
Vice President Frank Halderman said he still thought it was a good idea to treat the water with fluoride, saying it may be costly and dangerous, but those things can be overcome.
Based on the little response received when the decision was first made, he requested a second discussion on the issue before the cutoff date arrived.
The next water authority meeting is slated for Sept. 1.