If fluoride is going in the city’s water, the program should start once Hastings Utilities starts treating the water for nitrates.
That was the message the HU Board of Public Works sent to the Hastings City Council after a lengthy discussion on the issue during the board meeting Thursday.
The discussion came out of a motion made at Monday’s council meeting by councilman Phil Odom to add a sentence to the ballot issue going before voters in November.
As it stands, the question would simply ask voters if they want fluoride to be kept out of the city’s water supply. Odom’s amendment would state that if fluoride is put into the water supply it would go in when HU builds the central treatment plant.
Odom said some of his concerns and reasons for the amendment step from concerns expressed in the community about the costs of implementing the fluoridation program.
Earlier this year, HU staff gave estimates about the cost to fluoridate the city’s water supply. To set up fluoride injection into 25 city wells, it would cost the city $1,089,800 initially and $91,700 each year thereafter.
With a centralized water treatment plant, the fluoride would be injected at only one or two sites cutting the cost by a third. Startup costs for injecting fluoride at two centralized points, including the proposed water treatment center, would be $317,700 with annual operation and maintenance costs of about $32,700.
The water treatment plant is something the HU board has been discussing a lot recently as nitrate levels in the city’s water at individual wells has continued to increase. In late July, HU shut down Well 27, just west of Baltimore Avenue near Lake Hastings, after high nitrate levels were found.
Eventually, HU staff believes the city may need to build a centralized water treatment facility to treat the water before it is safe for drinking.
And while the board would like to wait to add fluoride at least until it starts to treat individual wells for nitrates, the board does not want to say that it will wait until a central treatment plant is built.
This is because HU has the ability to treat individual wells with chlorine and blend that water in with the untreated safe water from other wells. This could extend the time before a centralized treatment center is built.
One reason the board wants to extend the time before the treatment center is built is due to the cost, which estimates say could be $15 to $20 million.
“Treatment of nitrates is very complex and expensive,” said HU manager Marv Schultes. “It’s a long term process not a simple event.”
The board agreed Thursday that it supported the concept of Odom’s proposed amendment but asked that the council take out “centralized treatment center” and just say that fluoride would be added when HU starts to treat the water for nitrates.
The City Council is scheduled to review and make a decision on amendments to the ballot language at its Aug. 25 meeting. All changes to ballot language must be made by Sept. 1.