The Frankford Town Council at a special meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 14, approved a settlement with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control that centers on the Town adding fluoride to its water supply.
The council approved the settlement in hopes of moving forward following a lengthy battle with DNREC and with Mountaire Farms over the construction of an on-site well at the Mountaire feed processing facility inside town limits. The construction of that well effectively took Mountaire off of the Town’s water system, thus significantly reducing the Town’s revenues from the system.
Town Solicitor Chad Lingenfelter said Frankford is the only municipality in Delaware that does not yet have fluoride in its water. According to statistics provided at the meeting, as of 2012, 86 percent of all Delaware residents received fluoride through municipal systems. In Delaware, municipalities have been required to fluoridate water systems since 1998, but Frankford has never been held liable for its failure to do so.
That may change as a result of the settlement approved on Tuesday. Under the terms of the settlement, the Town will receive a $60,000 grant to complete evaluations of its water system within a time frame specified by DNREC. The evaluations will include:
• Examination of extending the Town’s water service to residents along Delaware Avenue through annexation;
• Examining the feasibility of adding fluoridation to Frankford’s existing water system and necessary treatment plant upgrades, with emphasis on upgrades necessary to complete the fluoridation process. That is to be completed by May 1.
• Examination of the overall water system, addressing permanent interconnection with neighboring towns, county operations and several treatment plant upgrades; and
• Completion of a final report of these evaluations no later than six months after the awarding of the grant.
Several residents expressed concern over the addition of fluoridation of Town water. Liz Carpenter said, “Most of the people in town that I have spoken with do not want fluoride.”
“This is an issue that severely needs tying up,” Lingenfelter said. He pointed out that when Mountaire constructed the well, the Town did not have a well ordinance.
The sole “no” vote on the settlement came from council Vice President Greg Welch, who said he did not feel going forward with the settlement was the best way to resolve the Town’s issue with Mountaire. A settlement with the poultry company was also on the agenda for the special meeting, but a vote on that issue was postponed until more information can be gathered.
Town Council Treasurer Marty Presley disagreed with Welch and said, “I don’t see a downside” to the settlement. He agreed with Carpenter, however, that “If we took a poll, probably 90 percent of people don’t want fluoridation.”
Carpenter blamed the Town’s water plant issues on much of what the Town has been through with Mountaire. “If our water system and our plant was operating properly, we wouldn’t have this,” she said.
Resident Jerry Smith questioned why similar plants in other towns have not constructed their own wells. “I have to wonder, are we missing something?” he asked.
In other action Tuesday night, the council approved a resolution that amends the Town’s outstanding 2000 and 2004 bonds, which were sold to and purchased by the Delaware Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.
The bonds were administered by the state Department of Health & Social Services to finance construction of a new water treatment facility, repair of the existing 125,000 gallon water storage tank, purchase a new 125,000 gallon tank and other improvements to the Town’s water system.