Note from FAN: The decision to end fluoridation was made in July 2017 in the Greater Johnston Water Authority – an area with over 52,000 residents.
Customers of the Greater Johnstown Water Authority will soon no longer have fluoride on tap.
Notices were recently mailed to area residents alerting them that fluoridation will be discontinued after Nov. 5. It is the result of a vote by members of the Greater Johnstown Water Authority board in the summer of 2017.
“My recollection was that there was some financial investment (to continue fluoridation),” water authority Assistant Manager Tom Brown said. “There were also concerns related to just purchasing the chemicals and handling the chemicals.
“I don’t think there was any one single reason why they did it.”
Fluoride has been added to Johnstown’s water system for decades. Proponents of this, such as the American Dental Association, call the practice safe and effective in protecting teeth.
“Simply by drinking water, Americans can benefit from fluoride’s cavity protection whether they are at home, work or school,” the association’s website states.
Critics, however, cite an array of scientific studies that raise questions about the downside of fluoridation. Recently the peer-reviewed scientific journal Environment International linked fluoride exposure and iodine deficiency to increasing the risk of thyroid disease, and the Journal of Clinical Pediatric Dentistry notes that most formula-fed infants in fluoridated areas will consume enough fluoride to develop dental fluorosis.
Approximately 50 area residents attended a public hearing at the Greater Johnstown Water Authority facility in Kernville in May of 2017 to speak their mind about the practice.
“We had a lot of people very happy about it,” Brown said, estimating that 75 percent of calls received after vote were in favor.
“We’re just giving the choice back to the consumer.”
Though the board decision was made more than a year ago, the authority was not allowed to remove fluoride from the system until the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection gave approval.
“The decision to use (or not use) fluoride in water is a public water system’s decision; it must apply for a permit modification or amendment from DEP,” Lauren Fraley, a community relations coordinator for DEP, wrote in an email to Our Town.
“DEP’s role is to ensure that these systems are operating in accordance with DEP regulations to provide clean, safe drinking water. DEP approved the Greater Johnstown Water Authority’s application on July 27. As a condition of its permit —and accordance with the attached DEP policy — the system must issue a public notice to consumers and medical professionals prior to its discontinuation of fluoride.”
Removing fluoride from the water authority’s supply will impact residents of Johnstown, Brownstown, Dale, Ferndale, Lorain, Middle Taylor Township, Stonycreek Township, Westmont, East Conemaugh, Conemaugh Township, Mineral Point, Franklin, Lower Yoder Township, Southmont, Upper Yoder Township and West Taylor Township, as well as Conemaugh Township in Somerset County.