Marion’s water system is one of the few in the region without added fluoride to fight dental decay, and city officials want to change that.
However, the process will take months of work and an estimated $44,000. City officials said fluoridation of the water is long overdue and badly needed in Marion.
“We are in the small minority of public water systems that do not fluoridate their water,” said City Manager Bob Boyette.
City officials said Marion/McDowell area has an above average rate of dental decay.
City Council members previously discussed the possibility of adding fluoride to the water system. During Tuesday’s meeting, Boyette said he researched the matter and found many surrounding cities and towns added fluoride to their water in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s.
Asheville and Valdese both added fluoride to their water system in 1965. Morganton followed suit in 1973. Both Hickory and Lenoir have had fluoridated water for 50 years. Rutherford-Spindale has had fluoridated water since 1964 and Forest City added fluoride in 1967. Kings Mountain has had it since 1971. Shelby has had fluoride since 1954, according to information compiled by the city.
The city of Marion could have had fluoridated water in the late 1960s or early 1970s, but controversy arose about this proposal and a number of residents objected to the process. The fluoride ordered by the city was sent to Morganton instead.
Councilman Cecil Owenby said he remembers this controversy from more than 30 years ago, citing a lot of misinformation among the public.
At that time, the process of fluoridation was simpler and less expensive. Boyette said he has learned that the process would take between six to nine months.
“The bureaucracy in Raleigh now to go through something simple is immense,” he said.
The city would have to go through a number of state agencies and departments.
The Asheville engineering firm of McGill Associates said the estimated cost of this project would be $44,000.
City officials said they have received a number of opinions from medical and dental health professionals, all supporting the addition of fluoride.
These professional organizations include the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, the McDowell County Dental Society, the McDowell County Medical Society, the McDowell County Partnership of Children and Families, the McDowell Medical Associates, The McDowell Hospital and others.
“The overwhelming evidence is clear that it is beneficial for our children,” said Mayor Pro Tem Steve Little. “I would like to see us do it but we need to be fiscally aware of our limitations.”
“I think we ought to get the paperwork going,” said Councilman Mike Edwards. Little said the city could look to foundations for money to help with this project.
The council voted unanimously to move forward with the planning and design on this project but spend a little money as possible. Since the process will take several months, the council could include the funding for this in the budget for next fiscal year.