After three years of unfluoridated waters, the Amherst County Service Authority board decided Tuesday to resume fluoridation at its water filtration plant in Madison Heights.
The service authority ceased fluoridation at its Madison Heights water filtration plant in March 2011. The Amherst County Service Authority board voted not to resume the practice in December 2013.
The authority had fluoridated its waters at a concentration of 0.8 to 1.4 milligrams per liter, or parts per million, with a target of 0.9 ppm.
According to Public Utilities Director Dan French, the decision to cease fluoridation was slated to be a temporary measure following equipment relocation during plant upgrades. French previously had said fluoridation would be interrupted for a four- to six-week time period.
The practice never resumed in the face of conflicting opinions on what the level of fluoridation should be.
A January 2011 joint news release from the Department of Health and Human Services and Environmental Protection Agency suggested a fluoridation target of 0.7 milligrams per liter, an amount lower than the authority’s target concentration of 0.9 ppm.
French approached the board for further guidance after receiving an October 2013 letter from the Virginia Department of Health encouraging the resumption of the practice.
“My main concern is that we ceased it and the board didn’t know about it. And I was kind of embarrassed,” board member Claudia Tucker said.
The board should have been informed of the decision, French said.
“And I apologize to you for not having brought that to your attention,” he added. “But I did what I thought was best at the time based on the information that was available to me, and if I did wrong, you have my apology.”
French insisted the authority will comply with the board’s wishes, but there needs to be a control range.
“With the absence of a control range the fluctuating chemistry and biological conditions of the source waters will cause you to deviate from the target,” French said.
Board member Robert Curd asked if the authority still would be fluoridating if it were not for construction at the water filtration plant.
“All of a sudden we’re arguing, let’s not put it back in because we don’t have a range, but yet if wasn’t for construction, we would be doing it,” Curd said.
Earlier in the meeting, French noted a reason for agencies such as the EPA and the Department of Health and Human Services not establishing a control range could be because of a 2012 study by researchers from Harvard University that suggested children in heavily flouridated areas had lower IQs than children who lived in areas with low levels.
“I’d really feel far more on firm ground if all these agencies stepped up and all said the same thing, and they all said ‘you should be using this control range,’” French said.
David Pugh noted concerns held by some researchers, such as fluorosis, the overconsumption of fluoride resulting in pitting and discoloration of teeth.
“In regards to fluoridation, it seems as if the science is largely unsettled. It’s changing, in my opinion, with possible negative side effects,” Pugh said.
Curd made a motion that the authority resume fluoridation of the water supply at a control range between 0.8 to 1.4 ppm with a target of 0.9 ppm.
The motion passed 4-1 with Pugh opposing.