Since 2011, the water fluoridation system has been fluctuating between normal and less than optimal levels. Town manager, Mike Schwirtz, says an engineer has been working to solve the issue.
Town manager, Mike Schwirtz, said in an interview that they’ve been doing everything in their power to get fluoride levels in the water up to normal since 2011, when a pump started exhibiting significant issues.
“We’ve got an engineer working on it,” he explained. “We believe we have the right fix, which is going to require changes to the pumping system. We’re hoping to have it implemented by November of this year, which will have the operation back up and fully running.”
Issues started back in 2011 when a new portable state-of-the-art filtration membrane was put in place. However, Schwirtz said in fluorosilicic acid has a different density than water, which caused the pump to “trip out”. Since then fluoride levels have fluctuated between normal levels and below optimal levels.
During Aug. 18 regular council councillor Stuart Taylor brought the issue to council. Schwirtz said while the pump was having significant operational difficulties, that at, “No time has the water been out of license contravention.
Schwirtz said in the interview that Alberta Environment had been notified as well as the Hinton Pulp Advisory Committee each time the pump faulted.
Adding fluoride to water is a process where hydrofluorosilicic acid is added as the final chemical in the water treatment process. Naturally there is fluoride in water before the treatment process, however levels are too low to make a significant impact.
The fluoride debate began back in Dec. 2010 when West Fraser reported operational issues with adding fluoride to the water. The town was asked if they wanted to pull it from the water, which would also save money in the long run. Council accepted the report for information, but decided against changing the bylaw.
This spurred an unofficial petition of over 200 names opposing the bylaw, however Schwirtz said that in the end 69.8 people voted in favour of keeping fluoride in the waterHealth Canada supports fluoridation of water as a way to prevent dental decay.
Dental disease is the number one chronic disease among children and adolescents in North America, which fluoride prevents. Dentists argue that fluoridation won’t impact those who can afford dental insurance, but for those without benefits, the water could be very beneficial, according to the Journal of Canadian Dental Association.
To have an effect, fluorosilicic acid levels would have to reach 0.7 mg/L ppm in water. Less than 0.25 mg/L ppm is naturally present in the water from the Athabasca River.
Opposing fluoride is the argument that it’s unethical to force medicating people, which takes away their ability to choose. Experts for this side of the argument also say that fluoride is topical and needs to be put on the gums to be effective, not consumed by drinking. They also argue that there’s not enough sufficient data to prove that it prevents tooth decay.
The current bylaw has been in effect since 1969, when over 50 per cent of people voted in favour of the fluoridation practice in a plebiscite.“This is an emotional topic,” said Schwirtz. “We have to go to that emotion first when talking about this issue. We had two experts who talked about either side of the argument but for people it wasn’t about the facts, it was about how they felt about it.”
Schwirtz said West Fraser has been, “Fantastic working with the town to solve this issue.