A $19,444 grant was awarded to Yorktown by the state Department of Health to see whether it is feasible to build a town-operated fluoride system for water supplied by the Catskill Aqueduct.
Currently, the Amawalk Water Treatment Plant fluoridates its water on-site. That facility supplies water to eastern Yorktown and Somers. Residents on the west side of Yorktown and Cortlandt receive their water from the Catskill Aqueduct. The Catskill supply at one time had a fluoride feed system that was taken off-line in 2013 because it needed repair.
Because other municipalities that belong to the Northern Westchester Joint Water Works (NWJWW) do not want their water fluoridated and receive water from the same supply, a separate feed system would have to be built further down the supply line for Yorktown to fluoridate its water.
Town engineer Michael Quinn said the study would likely be conducted in January and that he believes the project is feasible.
“Our water personnel are very well-versed in using, testing and overseeing a system operation, so for us to oversee and maintain a fluoride addition is well within our capability,” Quinn said. “We won’t need to get new staff, we won’t need new training; we already have the in-house expertise to do it.”
The study, Quinn said, will include a cost estimate for the work. If the town board moves forward, he said, it would apply for additional funding.
Matthew Geho, operations director at NWJWW, said the residents of the other towns do not want fluoride in their water. He predicts more municipalities will end to fluoridation and that it has become a point of contention in recent years. Many people feel that fluoride is abundant outside the water supply, he said.
In 2013, when the topic of fluoridating the water was last debated publicly in Yorktown, most people who spoke at a public hearing were in favor of fluoridation. The one person who spoke against it was concerned about how fluoride would be properly tracked to ensure it doesn’t exceed safe levels. The town board eventually voted, 3 to 1, to keep fluoride in Yorktown’s drinking water.
Carl Tegtmeier, a general dentist and member of the 9th District Dental Association, said that too much fluoride can cause fluorosis, which is the darkening or striation of the teeth. However, he said that shouldn’t be a concern with the small amount of fluoride that is recommended for tap water, noting that there are great benefits to using fluoride.
“The Center sfor Disease Control stated that the addition of fluoride to the drinking water was one of the top public health achievements of the 20th century,” he said.
Tegtmeier said fluoride appears naturally in lakes and streams at 0.2 to 0.4 milligrams per liter and, for dental health, is 0.7 milligrams per liter. According to the NWJWW website, the Amawalk treatment plant adds hydrofluorosilicic acid to achieve a fluoride residual of 0.7 milligrams per liter.
He said the 9th District Dental Association, which is the grassroots component of the American Dental Association, sees the same amount of fluoridation in both fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas, because in children it is caused by accidentally swallowing too much toothpaste. When consumed at the proper levels, he said, fluoride acts as a protective agent against the acid erosion that leads to tooth decay and decreases cavities by 20 to 40 percent. On the other hand, he said in comparisons between the non-fluoridated county of Rockland, which he said is demographically similar to Westchester County, Rockland’s kids had 70 percent more dental procedures.
“For every dollar invested in fluoride in the water systems, people will save $38 in dental expenses,” he said.
For children who grow up with fluoridated water, he said, the benefits will stay with them even if they move to non-fluoridated areas later in life.
“It really evens the playing field for everybody,” he said. “Whether you come from a lower economic class or higher economic class, everybody has a chance to have great teeth whether they have access to dental care or not.”