CLEARWATER – As promised, Pinellas County Commissioners discussed putting fluoride back in the drinking water at their Nov. 20 meeting. With two new commissioners, the board seems poised to return the additive back after nearly a year’s hiatus.
Fluoride was removed from Pinellas County’s drinking water Jan. 1, after a 4-3 decision to remove it. Commissioners John Morroni, Norm Roche, Nancy Bostock and Neil Brickfield voted for removal over sharp protests from fellow commissioners and members of the dental health community.
Bostock and Brickfield lost their bid for reelection in the Nov. 6 election. Their replacements, Charlie Justice and Janet Long, are advocates of fluoride in drinking water and made the issue part of their election campaigns. Long promised if elected, she would bring the matter back to the commission.
Morroni asked for the matter to be placed on the Nov. 20 agenda, which met the approval of all seven commissioners, and all but Commissioner Norm Roche say they are convinced that fluoride does nothing but good.
Roche said he still wants to do what he thought was the intent when the commission voted to remove fluoride – look at all available scientific evidence on the subject. Roche does not object to the practice of fluoridation; however, he has concerns about use of hydrofluosilicic acid. He prefers more study and more talk before taking action.
“I totally disagree,” said Commissioner Ken Welch. “The science is crystal clear.”
Welch pointed to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the state Department of Health.
“Next week, I will support the motion,” Welch said.
After listening to the public speak for and against, commissioners allowed Long to make the motion to place the item on the Nov. 27 agenda. She asked staff to be ready to “flip the switch” if approval was granted.
Bob Powell, director of Water and Sewer for the Department of Environment and Infrastructure, said some of the equipment at the Keller Plant used to monitor fluoride levels needed replacement at an estimated cost of about $25,000. Estimated annual operating costs for fluoridation is $160,000.
In a staff report, Powell indicated that fluoridation could start by the end of November, upon approval of the commission. He said arrangements had been made with the vendor who could supply the chemical within three to five days.
The Nov. 27 meeting begins at 2 p.m. in the Fifth Floor Assembly Room on the Pinellas County Courthouse, 315 Court St., Clearwater.