Beatrice residents could be voting in the November election on whether their water should be fluoridated.
The Board of Public Works Board is recommending that the Beatrice City Council allow local residents to vote in the November election on whether or not fluoride should be added to the city’s drinking water.
The Nebraska Legislature passed LB245 that requires fluoride to be added by June 1, 2010, to drinking water in cities and towns with populations of more than 1,000, Neil Niedfelt, BPW general manager and city administrator, reported to the board on Wednesday.
Under state law, cities and towns would be able to opt out of the law if residents vote it down in an election or if there is enough natural-occurring fluoride already in the water supply.
Most of Nebraska’s population more than 942,000 people is served by 65 public water systems that add fluoride to water. Forty-one systems are naturally fluoridated.
But 64 Nebraska communities with more than 1,000 people, including Beatrice, don’t add fluoride or have enough naturally occurring.
Beatrice water has a natural fluoridation of .25, but it is not enough to meet the recommended level set by LB245.
If the city were to fluoridate, residential water customers would see an increase of about 25 cents on their monthly bill, Water Superintendent Steve Kelley said. Commercial customers would see about a $1.50 increase each month.
The BPW would likely have to spend about $88,000 to purchase and install equipment and build a building to fluoridate, Kelley said. It would then cost around $15,000 a year to fluoridate.
Kelley’s recommended to the BPW Board that the fluoridation issue be placed on the November ballot.
Beatrice once fluoridated its water from April 17, 1950, to Nov. 23, 1954, as recommended by the Gage County Dental Association. Fluoridation stopped in 1954 after a petition was circulated in the community and the issue was placed on the ballot, Kelley said. The vote was 2-1 to have fluoridation of the water stopped. The measure was later placed on the ballot two or three times and was defeated each time.
Board member Bob Moran noted that there was negative and positive information about fluoridation. He agreed that it should be placed on the ballot.
“Let the town decide whether they want the fluoride in their water,” he said.