WEST BRANCH — The West Branch City Council will consider in the future whether to add additional fluoride to the city’s water supply in order to bring it up to recommended levels.
Representatives from the dental field were in attendance at the city’s Feb. 16 meeting to ask that the level of the fluoride be raised to 0.7 parts per million. Currently, the level of fluoride in the water is around 0.4 parts per million.
“We’d just like to know how much additional money it would take to get to optimal levels,” said Nichol Jenc, office administrator for Dental Clinics North.
Jenc said the city is already adding fluoride to the water, and it only makes sense to add the recommended amount.
“The investment’s already been made,” she said. “We need to get up to speed.”
She suggested that there may be grants available to help fund the extra costs.
City Manager Heather Grace said it would cost the city approximately $300 more a year to add the increased amount of fluoride to the water. Currently it costs the city $2,800 for the fluoride and testing equipment annually.
While some members of the city council were on board with bringing the amount of fluoride to the recommended amounts — councilman Kim Ervans made a motion to do just that, which died due to lack of support — others expressed concern about adding fluoride to the water at all.
“We don’t have to do it, number one,” said councilman Dave Lucas. “Number two, when we did do it, I don’t think the city put it on the ballot to approve it. We just went ahead and did it.”
Lucas referenced the cost of adding fluoride in the first place, saying the city is already looking at ways to cut costs.
“I’m just saying, at this point, you’re going to keep increasing the taxes one way or another, and we already have people leaving the city of West Branch,” Lucas said.
“What do you suggest? Get rid of the fluoride?” Ervans asked.
“You might have to,” Lucas responded.
Local dentist Jonathan Berns said fluoride is a beneficial additive to the water system, but the city needs more.
“For every dollar spent on fluoridation, $45 is saved on dental services,” he said. “I’ve never seen so much tooth decay since moving here five years ago. I’m convinced it’s the lack of fluoridation.”
Mayor Bill Ehinger said he would rather seek public opinion on the topic before making a change. He suggested a survey of city residents that could go out with residents’ water bills April 1.
“There really isn’t any hurry on this,” Ehinger said. “I say look into it and see what the input is.”
Ervans also suggested having input from the local school system and from the medical community at a future meeting.
“I think we need some professional input,” he said.
“Maybe some people in this city don’t want it,” Lucas said.
“I can’t imagine,” Ervans responded.
Adding fluoride to the water is not a new issue. No one at the meeting was able to say just how long the city has been adding fluoride to the water system, but Department of Public Works Supervisor Dennis Jameson said he has been with the city for 32 years, and it has been added at least that entire time.