Despite the best efforts of water operators, concerned citizens and local lawmakers, the new Arkansas law, Act 197 of 2011, mandating water fluoridation of all systems serving more than 5,000 people, remains in place and its implementation is looming at the Carroll-Boone Water District, which serves the cities of Eureka Springs, Berryville, Green Forest, Harrison and their subsidiaries.
Reporting Thursday at CBWD’s quarterly meeting, Brad Hammond, president of McGoodwin, Williams & Yates engineering firm, updated the board on where the project stands.
He said he had contacted the Arkansas Department of Health. They sent him a letter as a follow-up to their conversation.
Jeff Stone, P.E. with ADH’s Engineering Section, wrote that ADH has “patiently attempted to facilitate compliance” by the water systems, asking them to show progress toward same, and that the ADH “is confident that public water systems will comply with state law.”
The law states water systems are not required to comply “until funds sufficient to pay capital start-up costs for fluoridation equipment for the system have become available from any source other than tax revenue or service revenue regularly collected by the (entity) that owns or controls the water system.”
Delta Dental has offered to provide startup costs for every affected water system in the state.
Stone said that since CBWD has been offered grant funding, “failure to proceed with design and installation of a fluoridation system … would be a violation of the requirements of Act 197 … and of the (ADH’s) Rules and Regulations Pertaining to Public Water Systems. The Arkansas Department of Health will take action against any public water system that is found to be non-compliant with these requirements.”
Funding for CBWD’s fluoride system had been on hold while MWY’s initial estimated price tag of $1.23 million exceeded Delta Dental’s offer of $763,000.
Hammond said MWY had revised its preliminary design cost estimates to $650,000 for two facilities, one for each plant.
He said the detailed design would take two to three months, and he would revise the cost estimate for the next meeting. He said construction could start at the first of the year and finish in 10 months.
“The grant is contingent on finishing by Oct. 31, 2014,” he said.
He said it will cost $70,000 to do the detailed design.
“Delta Dental told us they might consider increasing the grant,” Hammond said, “if we could show the facility is adequate but not over-designed.”
Attempts by lawmakers; water operators at CBWD, who stand opposed to fluoridation for several reasons; and concerned citizens to overturn or forestall the new law have failed so far.
“I don’t think we have a choice,” said board President James Yates at Thursday’s meeting. During several meetings in 2011 and 2012, Yates allowed extensive public comment by concerned citizens.
The board voted Thursday to authorize executing a grant agreement with Delta Dental and to enter an engineering design contract with MWY.
Now, all that can be done is to attempt to ensure that the form of fluoride used is the least harmful, said CBWD’s Business Manager René Fonseca after the meeting. He and all CBWD’s water operators have stood in opposition to fluoridation, and Fonseca has testified several times at the state capitol during hearings.
“I will recommend we use sodium fluoride, which is pharmaceutical grade, instead of fluorosilicate, which is an industrial byproduct,” Fonseca said.
He said he has seen a study, done by Drs. William Hirzy and Robert Carton, that shows industrial-grade Hydrofluorosilicic acid contains from 100 to 500 times more arsenic than pharmaceutical grade sodium fluoride.
“Studies show 400 percent less cancer in bladders and lungs because of less lead and arsenic in sodium fluoride,” Fonseca said. “Also, pharmaceutical sodium fluoride doesn’t leech lead from pipes like industrial fluoride does.”
According to a study published in the American Water Works Association bulletin “Opflow,” the author, Dr. Cheng-nan Weng, said that 90 percent of arsenic in tap water comes from fluoridation chemicals.
Hirzy and Carton found that typical arsenic levels in drinking water are about 30 to 35 mg/kg, which would “qualify it as toxic hazardous waste if not for a legal loophole because it is sold to fluoridate water.”
The Fluoride Action Network said research published in the journal “Environmental Science & Policy,” led by former EPA scientists, claims that society would save $1 billion to $14 billion in healthcare costs by switching to low-arsenic, pharmaceutical-grade fluoride.
The downside, however, to using sodium fluoride instead of HFSA, Fonseca admitted, is the cost.
“It’s possible it will cost three times more than industrial fluoride,” he said, although that is not certain. He contacted a company in Texas that cannot certify its product but who claims it is just as pure as pharmaceutical grade.
The late former office manager and plant operator Jim Allison, who was adamantly opposed to fluoridation, had projected industrial fluoride would cost the district $20,000 to $24,000 per year, Fonseca said. Tripling that cost could be significant to the district’s budget.
Fonseca said normally it is the water operator who would make the decision on what type of fluoride to use and where to obtain it, “but we will have to see who the board designates to choose it.”
He said one thing local concerned citizens can do, now that it looks to be inevitable that fluoride will be added to their drinking water, is to petition the CBWD board to allow the water operators to obtain the purer, pharmaceutical-grade fluoride.
© Copyright 2013 Lovely County Citizen.