BROCKTON – Flouridation of Brockton water was ordered by the city’s board of health in 1972.
But the initiative fell to the wayside, after reaching the Brockton City Council.
Now, a group of community organizers and city officials are once more supporting the addition of flouride to Brockton water, in an effort to improve the community’s dental health.
“This time we are determined to see it through,” said Maria Mendes, lead organizer for the One Smile Brockton campaign. “It’s a proven, safe and cost-effective way to promote strong teeth for everyone.”
The Brockton City Council voted unanimously on Monday night to support the Brockton Board of Health in its current effort to obtain state funding to install flouridation equipment.
“As a longtime resident of the city, we’ve talked about this issue for the longest time, but yet somehow we haven’t really done anything about it,” said Councilor-at-large Moises Rodrigues, who introduced the resolve vote. “We have a great opportunity to get the state to come down and help us with this process. This is a resolve that goes to show this council is supportive of the work that’s being done in the community. The Board of Health supports it 100 percent. I urge my colleagues to do the same thing, so we can move forward.”
The startup cost would range from $40,000 to $60,000 for a city the size of Brockton, Mendes said. All of that would be covered by state funding, Mendes said, which would have to be approved for acceptance by the Brockton City Council at a later date.
“One Smile Brockton is confident that this startup cost will be covered by the Mass Department of Public Health,” Mendes said. “They are totally supportive, and historically have covered the initial costs.”
The cost for the city for maintenance and chemicals will be around $60,000 per year for the flouridation system, according to the Brockton Board of Health, which approved the effort in a recent meeting.
But John Condon, Brockton’s chief financial officer, said that $100,000 is the upper end of the likely annual cost. At the same time, the present revenue structure of the city’s water system is not able to fully address its current maintenance and capital needs.
“The annual maintenance cost for fluoridation of $60,000 to $100,000, while not a great amount of money on its own, would be added to the cost of system needs not currently being addressed,” said Condon, in an email to The Enterprise.
Brockton right now has 3 parts flouride per million in its water from natural fluoridation, but the system would bring that up to the optimal level of 7 parts per million, said Louis Tartaglia, the executive health officer for the city.
Four years after Massachusetts adopted a law giving local boards of health control over flouridation in 1968, the Brockton Board of Health passed a measure to introduce flouride to the city’s water supply. There was opposition when it went to council, but money ultimately was the issue preventing it from being implemented, Tartaglia said.
In Massachusetts, 70.4 percent of people get flouridated water, Tartaglia said, but nationwide it’s 75 percent.
Jane Marie Dolan, a community dentist from the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center, said that children who drink flouridated water develop stronger enamel, with longer lasting protection against tooth decay. Dolan said that it reduces the rate of cavities by 35 percent in adult teeth, which helps increase cost savings for Medicaid-eligible dental care.
Tartaglia said that the Massachusetts Department of Public Health would install the flouridation system in three locations in the city.
“Until that’s done, Brockton will not spend any money,” Tartaglia said.