DAVENPORT – Davenport council members are about a year away from considering whether to fluoride at their expanded water plant. But the issue will be on Four Corners officials faster than they expect.
Polk County this spring received Southwest Florida Water Management District approval to bump up Northeast water production to 6.05 million gallons a day – a nearly quadruple increase. Construction including work on two new Four Corners wells occurs between the end of 2004 and first quarter of 2005, said Michael Azzarella, Polk Utilities Technical Services director.
Of roughly four dozen county water systems, none provide additional fluoride. Azzarella, who joined the county two years ago, isn’t sure why. He plans to broach the issue during a systemwide planning meeting this week.
Fluoride added to public water in tiny doses is associated with reduced cavities. Opponents fear chemical additives in the public water supplies, claiming sufficient fluoride exists in average diets.
Dr. Charles Llano, a Lakeland dentist and past president of the Polk County Dental Association, saw firsthand the problems associated with children’s tooth decay. As a public health service dentist in Frostproof during the early 1970s, Llano treated many children whose inadequate diets left them vulnerable to dental cavities.
“Fluoride doesn’t cause genetic changes and it doesn’t stunt growth,” Llano said. “It’s naturally occurring in well water and some areas, especially where they’ve mined phosphate, have more than is needed.”
Quantities of the mineral exist in pockets that are highly individualized.
Eugene Jeffers, county health department professional engineering administrator, found Lake Alfred water had 1.02 parts per million. Just south in Lake Wales, the figure was 0.41 ppm while north in Davenport, it was 0.227 ppm. Dundee’s naturally-occurring fluoride is measured at 0.19 ppm
Dentists like Llano generally recommend fluoride in public water at around 1 ppm which is equivalent to 1 mg in 1,000 ml of water. That provides a daily dose of 0.25-0.50 milligrams. Children drinking fluoridated water generally do not need supplemental fluoride treatments.
Dr. Daniel Haight, county medical director, has addressed the Bartow City Commission on the benefits of public fluoridation. The city approved a fluoride program for its new 7 million gallon a day water facility on U.S. Highway 17 with state funding virtually the entire $90,000 price tag.
Adoption came without controversy and little discussion following Haight’s lecture, said Ron Johnson, Bartow water superintendent. The price of the chemical amounts to about $800 annually, he said.
Haines City, Lakeland and Winter Haven also fluoridate their supplies. Orange County next month adds fluoride to its water supply as one of the state’s last metropolitan hold-outs. Speakers there predict a 29 percent drop in cavities.
Orlando, Winter Park, Kissimmee, St. Cloud, and most of Brevard and Volusia counties fluoride their water supplies. Education appears to be the key component of a smooth conversion, Haight said Monday.
Davenport has close to a year to weigh the topic as the city moves to expand its municipal water system, said engineer Robert Beltran, a PBS&J project manager. The new plant should easily be able to accommodate a fluoride injection system if that’s the council’s wish, he said.
It’s the wish of at least one outspoken council member. Lewis Mathews Monday said it only makes sense for the city to insure the health of its youngsters.
“It’s for children’s teeth. Anything for children,” said Mathews who has five grandchildren.