FORSYTH — After nearly a year of debate over whether to stop adding fluoride to the municipal water system, the city of Forsyth Board of Aldermen voted 4-0 to, at least temporarily, halt the practice.
The vote required the practice to be halted immediately.
The decision came in light of a report from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources recommending that the city consider halting the practice unless it can upgrade its fluoride injection process.
The same report also strongly urged the city to begin disinfecting its water supply with chlorine. The aldermen did not take any action on that recommendation.
The report, submitted by DNR Environmental Engineer Fred Schlegel, stated that tests taken of the city water supply over the last since 2009 show that fluoride levels have always fallen within suggested levels, but that they have inconsistent enough to cause a concern.
City Supervisor Chris Robertson told the aldermen that the concern is that the city could end up with “hot spots” in which too much fluoride is in the water.
Robertson said he was surprised by the recommendation.
“In previous inspection, I never had a DNR inspector bring it up,” Robertson said. “I was taken aback.”
The report recommends that the city add safety systems “such as separate rooms, containment tubs, face shields, rubber aprons and gloves, and eye wash stations.” The report also states “it may be necessary” to install ion probes to monitor the water, which then “suggests the need” for a computer system to coordinate the fluoride feed system from a central location.
Robertson said all of those recommendations would cost the city about $100,000.
The report recommended halting the addition of fluoride unless the city makes the upgrades.
“All this discussion about fluoride adjustment, leads to the question of whether or not the ability of the water system operators to properly manage the equipment used to feed this substance, and to measure it accurately in the system, is truly up to the expectation customers, and the dental health community, have insofar as the safe and prophylactic value of the fluoride adjustment in the first place,” the report states. “In other words, is it worth the trouble? If the answer is ‘yes,’ then Forsyth should re-examine the system it has in place. It may require a complete remodeling of the system.”
The report also asked the city to update its master plan for its water system, which was last updated in 2000.
Taney County Health Department Director Robert Niezgoda attended the meeting and asked the city to word its motion so that the stoppage was temporary, something the aldermen did.
Niezgoda said the health department was looking into grants that could assist Forsyth. He also liked the idea of the city updating its master plan.
“I think this might be the first place to start with this,” he said.
Another recommendation of the DNR report was that Forsyth should disinfect its wells with chlorine. On that, Robertson said DNR could not compel the city to do so because Forsyth has consistently had safe water tests.
The report states: “It is this department’s, but particularly this inspector’s, strong recommendation that Forsyth continuously disinfect its water supply with chlorine as soon as practicable. There are very compelling reasons for this recommendation. For instance, despite the absence of a provable microbiological threat at the present time of this survey, the general history of public water supply already suggests the possibility of such a threat surfacing in Forsyth at any time and practically without warning. Many times, serious water borne illness can be deeply spread through a public system before the public health emergency is even recognized.”
The report goes on to state “Move immediately and voluntarily towards disinfection by chlorination. Do not wait for an emergency to erupt.”
Robertson said he did not see a need for Forsyth to be concerned.
“If we had factories around us, I would understand it,” Robertson said.