Fluoridation is still 12 to 18 months away and dependent on approval from at least one of the two towns that get their water from Windsor.
On the heels of Monday night’s marathon city council session when council approved reintroducing fluoride to the water system after a five-year ban, comes news that it’s not a matter of simply flipping a switch. There’s a long list of: regulatory requirements; treatability studies; equipment purchases; government licence amendments; water system testing; and studying which fluoride product is best.
“We have to make sure we do our due diligence there to ensure the safety of the water system,” Garry Rossi, vice-president of water operations for EnWin, said Tuesday.
EnWin, which manages the water system for Windsor Utilities Commission, must also find the money — an estimated $850,000 for new equipment and installation, plus $150,000 to $200,000 annually to purchase the chemical and maintain the system. Fluoridation is a complicated endeavour that EnWin hadn’t budgeted for, Rossi said.
“It’s not something that’s going to happen in a month or two month’s time.”
And Windsor isn’t the only municipality that has a say. The province’s Fluoridation Act spells out that the majority of communities that get their water from a utility like WUC must approve a change to add fluoride to the system. In this case, that means either LaSalle or Tecumseh town councils must also vote for fluoridation for the plan to move ahead.
LaSalle’s newly elected Mayor Marc Bondy is personally opposed to fluoridation but says his council will gauge public opinion before deciding the issue, likely in January.
“As the mayor, I will listen to what the people tell me,” he said, adding that the last time the issue came up in 2013 when Windsor council voted 8-3 to get rid of fluoride, LaSalle council did the same. He said it’s early in the process — he just learned Tuesday morning that the town can have a say.
“We’re getting some emails and voicemails relating to ‘Yes, I want it,’ and ‘No, I don’t.’ We’re going to keep track of yeses and nos and we’ll go accordingly.”
Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara is a longtime chairman of the board of the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, whose 2018 Oral Health Report on the alarming rise in childhood cavities during the five years without fluoride triggered the fluoridation drive. So it’s not surprising he’s a strong supporter of resuming fluoridation.
“I’ve supported it from the get-go, I still do, I believe the science behind it is sound,” said McNamara, who said his council will likely deal with the issue in January. He has no idea which way the vote will go. But the Oral Health report is compelling, he added. It reported a 51 per cent increase over five years in the percentage of children with tooth decay requiring urgent care. In addition, the percentage of local children with urgent dental needs was double the Ontario average.
“You can’t deny there’s an upsurge in cavities in our youth,” McNamara said, putting his faith in the many medical and dental associations that say fluoridation is safe and effective.
EnWin’s Rossi said if WUC is mandated to add fluoride, it has to conduct treatability studies to make sure anything it adds to the water system doesn’t affect the system adversely. Because 90 per cent of the fluoride that goes into the system gets discharged through the wastewater treatment plants back into the river, the Essex County Source Water Protection Committee will be consulted, to ensure there are no risks of contamination to the source water.
The Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks would need to amend WUC’s licence to permit fluoridation. And Enwin would research whether there are any other methods of fluoridation other than what was previously used — hydrofluorosilicic acid. Enwin would also want to monitor the use of fluoride through an entire year-long weather cycle before introducing it to the system, said Rossi.
“You’re adding this chemical into the system, you want to make sure there aren’t any effects, either within the process or downstream with respect to adding this.”
LaSalle’s mayor Bondy said that personally, he’s against fluoridation. “If you look at different data, you get different answers,” he said of the research presented by both sides of the debate. “So on that basis, I’m not going to drink something that they say ‘should’ be good for you.”
Currently, several other chemicals are added to the water system. EnWin adds ozone as a powerful but shortlived primary disinfectant which is long gone by the time the water leaves the treatment plant. There is also a coagulant added to act as a magnet for fine dirt particles. It is removed when the water hits the treatment plant’s filters. Chlorine is also used, but only as a secondary disinfectant to kill bacteria when the water is in the distribution system. Finally, phosphoric acid is added to counter trace amounts of lead.
*Original article online at https://windsorstar.com/news/local-news/fluoridation-still-12-to-18-months-away-with-hurdles-to-clear