The York Water Co. has more than 56,000 customers, none of whom have fluoridated water.
The company has never offered fluoridated water to any of its residential, commercial or industrial customers and didn’t plan to – until now.
The company in May struck a deal to purchase West Manheim Township’s water system and begin supplying water to township residents. And in so doing, York Water Co. also agreed to provide fluoride in the water, said Jeff Hines, the company’s vice president of engineering.
“The township currently offers it, so we will continue to offer it,” Hines said.
West Manheim Township gets its fluoridated water from Hanover. Terry Sterner, supervisor at Hanover’s water filtration plant, said the borough has been putting fluoride in its water for the 33 years he has worked at the plant.
“We used to put it in as a powder; now we put it in as a liquid,” Sterner said. “We monitor the fluoride levels. It is one of the easiest chemicals to control and test.”
West Manheim Township Manager Andy Richardson said the supervisors discussed the idea of keeping fluoride in the water system after York Water Co. takes over. Several residents responded to a survey posted on the township’s Web site asking that the township keep fluoride.
West Manheim Township supervisors voted in May to sell the township’s water system to York Water Co. for $2,075,000, taking the township out of the water business for good and severing a contract to buy water from Hanover.
Under that contract, West Manheim regularly exceeded its water allotment, causing penalties that cost more than the water itself.
York Water Co. should take ownership of the township’s water system sometime in 2008.
Township supervisors raised the issue of continuing to fluoridate water while negotiating an agreement with York Water Co. Hines said the company was willing to put it in the agreement.
Hines said of all the municipal systems the company has acquired over the years, none has ever had fluoride in its water.
“It is one of those things where each municipality will differ,” Hines said. “West Manheim Township is the only system we will own that will have fluoridated water.”
There is a small amount of fluoride in the water provided by the York Water Co. because it occurs naturally.
Sterner said he thinks the York Water Co. might have to get a state permit to provide fluoride, since the company doesn’t do it now.
“If we introduce a new chemical into the water, we have go through different procedures before they will give you a permit,” Sterner said.
Sterner said all the water company will have to do to add fluoride to the West Manheim water is flow the chemical in at whatever point the water goes into the township’s system.
Fluoride has been shown to prevent and even reverse the early stages of tooth decay.
But there is debate that too much fluoride in the water system can harm teeth, and during the Cold War there was public opposition because some believed fluoridation was some sort of sinister conspiracy.
In 1995, the board of directors of the York Water Co. did an extensive review of the subject that included surveying customers, talking with various medical, dental and health-interest groups and researching legal issues pertaining to the subject. Because of conflicting viewpoints, the board of directors concluded the issue is one that can only be resolved at the state or national level, according to the policy.
“We are neither for nor against fluoridating the water,” Hines said. “All we are asking is that the state mandate it one way or the other.”
A bill that will go before the General Assembly in the coming months would require public water systems to fluoridate the water. But York Water is a privately owned company and would not be affected by the bill.