After voting last June to resume fluoridation treatment of drinking water throughout all its systems, the Bedford Regional Water Authority announced this week it will begin a two-phase process beginning Monday.

Water fluoridation is the controlled addition of fluoride to a water supply.

The BRWA’s Central Water Treatment Plant serves the Town of Bedford, and the fluoridation process will begin there. Drinking water at the Smith Mountain Lake Water Treatment Plant, which serves customers from Moneta to Forest, will begin the process July 6.

“[Fluoridation] has been listed as one of the 10 greatest public health programs of the 20th century, and our society deserves it,” Dr. Annie Libbey, of Libbey Family Dentistry in Forest, said Tuesday. “It’s an inexpensive way to make a huge impact on the healthcare of our kids that may not otherwise have access to dental care.”

Libbey said fluoride is particularly important to children’s developing teeth, providing proper minerals to strengthen the enamel and better protect teeth from decay.

The BRWA’s board of directors originally moved to resume treating county drinking water with fluoride in June of 2019 at the recommendation of the Virginia Department of Health following the board’s vote to stop the treatment in 2017. The water has not been treated with fluoride from the Central and Smith Mountain Lake plants since February 7, 2017.

“They [VDH] approached us multiple times and said, ‘We want fluoride to be added into the water. We think it’s very important for your plants to have it,’” said Megan Aubrey, director of administration for the BRWA.

BRWA stopped fluoridation of drinking water at two of its five plants for consistency in 2017, and is starting treatment again for the same reason, Aubrey said. Two plants serve well systems which have no fluoride, and the Lynchburg location is already fluoridated.

The BRWA is adding fluoride at the Smith Mountain Lake plant for the first time to be consistent with its co-owners and operators, the Western Virginia Water Authority, which serves the Franklin County side of Smith Mountain Lake, Aubrey said. The Western Virginia Water Authority made plans to add fluoride to water in its service area at VDH’s recommendation, and because the organizations share the same water source, Aubrey said it made sense to fluoridate BRWA’s water as well.

Before active treatment could resume, the BRWA had to install fluoridation systems at its Central Water Treatment Plant and the Smith Mountain Lake plant. With systems purchased, and necessary equipment and employee training finally obtained, treatment may begin.

Customers will not see an increase in their bills, as most of the funding for the treatment process was covered by a VDH grant.

Libbey added fluoridating drinking water can result in overall savings each year in dental care for many individuals.

“Some of the studies have shown that for every dollar that’s spent regulating the fluoride in our drinking water, it saves each resident over $38 in dental costs,” Libbey said.

The BRWA will follow recommendations from the VDH, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Public Health Service for a fluoride concentration of 0.7 milligrams per liter of drinking water. Recommended fluoride levels come with continual, stringent testing, Libbey added.

“[Fluoride] has consistently been proven to be safe, effective, and certainly worth the investment for our communities,” Libbey said.