The city will likely discontinue fluoridation of city well water.
The parks, building, development and public service committee agree to recommend the city not repair broken equipment used to add fluoride to drinking water.
City Engineer Jonathan Zimmermann said it would cost between $25,000 to $30,000 to fix the broken equipment. It has not been in service for several months.
He recommended the city stop adding fluoride, and added that Union, Sullivan and Pacific are the only municipalities in the county that add it to water.
“This isn’t something we have to do,” said Zimmermann.
Furthermore, when the equipment was working the city added fluoride to less than half of the city wells. It costs $12,000 per year to purchase the fluoride in addition to other costs related to adding to the water supply.
The additive also corrodes city infrastructure.
“It’s an acid and it eats the pipes,” Zimmermann said.
He noted that there also are safety concerns.
“Employees are handling it and they don’t want to,” Zimmermann added.
In the ’70s Union, along with cities across the country, began adding fluoride to water at the request of the American Dental Association.
The group made a push to get fluoride in drinking water because it reduces tooth decay. However there are some studies that suggest people are getting too much fluoride, which can be damaging to teeth.
“Now every dental care product has fluoride,” said Zimmermann. “There has been a lot of discussion nationally about the benefits.”
The recommendation was approved by a 5-1 vote with Alderman Dustin Bailey casting the dissenting vote.
The measure still requires a vote of the full board of aldermen.
Bailey explained he wanted to hear input from local residents and dentists before discontinuing adding fluoride.
“I don’t think it is worth jumping into it just because it will save some money,” said Bailey.
He later added that he doesn’t disagree with removing fluoride from water.
“I just felt the topic deserved more discussion,” he said. “I would have wanted more input from the public and educated resources before making a decision.”