NORTH ATTLEBORO — Residents have been getting reduced concentrations of fluoride in their water and some, at times, no fluoride at all due to problems with injecting it into the town water supply, according to a legal ad placed by the town.
The fluoride has been injected in water from the Whiting Street treatment plant, but not from some other wells.
The water department said in the ad that the blending of water from various sources reduces the concentration of fluoride in the overall supply to below the recommended level.
“This has resulted in some residents receiving reduced levels of fluoride … and some residents, at times, receiving no fluoride in their drinking water,” the ad states.
Fluoride is a mineral that strengthens teeth. It is not required in drinking water, but towns can vote to add it to the supply to improve dental health.
North Attleboro voted to do so in 2000 after a contentious campaign that saw 57 percent supporting fluoride.
The ad recommends residents talk to their dentist about the situation because dentists often do not treat children with fluoride if they are already getting it in the water.
Public Works Director Mark Hollowell could not be reached for comment Monday, but the ad states Whiting Street has been the only source for fluoride since 2011.
Anne Marie Fleming, the town’s public health nurse and director of the health department, said the situation came to light when her department received a state report on North Attleboro’s water quality in August.
The report noted the lower fluoride levels and the health department then raised the issue with public works.
She said there is still fluoride in the Whiting Street water and Whiting Street is the major source of water in town.
Fleming and Town Manager Michael Gallagher said town officials will try to figure out how to address the problem, but they did not want to speak for the public works director.
Gallagher said it is his understanding the water sources other than Whiting Street are not well equipped for adding fluoride. One well was damaged by it, he said.
He said it is also his understanding that fluoride is difficult to mix with water before being inserted into the water system and the town may need to construct a building to do it in the future.
Hollowell will seek quotes on how much it will cost to address the situation, Gallagher said.
The DPW will also meet with the health board and town council to discuss putting a ballot question before residents to “eliminate the addition of fluoride to the system,” the legal ad states.
Town Council President Keith Lapointe said the council has not been involved in the issue.
Town resident Carol Kirby, a dental hygienist and one of the leaders of the pro-fluoride push in 2000, said what upsets her most about the situation is public works didn’t tell anyone about it for 11 years.
“The community was never informed,” she said.
Kirby said children could have been getting fluoride treatments from dentists or vitamins with fluoride from doctors had the parents known.
Don Bates, a health board member who favors fluoride in the water, said he was surprised to learn of the problem and even more surprised it has been going on for years without the health department knowing.
“I was very much surprised, a shock, if you will,” he said.
Bates said townspeople voted for fluoride and they should be getting it.
He said he hopes the town does not try to go back to no fluoride because of the costs of fixing the problem or return to the heated environment that surrounded the 2000 vote.
Bates got on the board of health in 2002 after the fluoride vote. He said he served with two strong opponents of fluoride who voted to sue public works to stop it from being added to the water, only to have the suit dropped when one of the opponents got voted out of office.
“Oh, boy, that was a piece of work,” he said of the hard feelings throughout town over the issue at that time.