Some Conway residents are upset about what’s not in their water. The city has added fluoride for decades but last October Conway Corporation decided to take it out and didn’t tell the community.
Conway Corporation staff members insist they are not required to tell anyone about removing the fluoride except the health department. They hope to put the fluoride back in someday, but say they don’t have the money right now.
The fluoride is injected into the water at the Conway water treatment plant in the same location the chlorine is. Apparently the presence of both chemicals caused erosion in pipes that are only three years old.
The erosion happened in an area that wasn’t visible during daily inspections. So no one knew about it until there was a large leak that forced part of the facility to be shut down last fall.
Conway Corporation’s Tommy Shackelford says, “It started flooding the filter gallery here and we immediately had to shut the water down to keep it from coming in.”
Conway Corp leaders say they told the health department last fall when the changes were made saying that is their protocol. They also say they fully intended to tell the public once they came to a full solution, one that included putting the fluoride back in the water. Doing that would require revamping part of the system to avoid continual pipe erosion.
Shackelford says, “We have a concept of how we want to continue and are reviewing it with our engineers of how to continue.”
Local dentist Terry Fiddler sees first hand the benefits of fluoride.
Fiddler says, “Was I shocked that it’s been out of there since October? Absolutely!”
According to the state’s health department 64% of the state has fluoridated water. 1.7 million people benefit from it. Other cities that don’t use it are Fort Smith, Hot Springs, and El Dorado.
Fiddler says, “It’s a time bomb ticking. You’ll start seeing changes.”
Back at the water treatment plant, workers say they’re disappointed the pipe eroded and are happy to look for a solution.
The state’s health department is confident this is a temporary engineering problem and that Conway Corporation will reinstate fluoride as soon as possible. However, leaders at Conway Corporation say they’ve spent all their capital money this year on construction projects and don’t have any left to address the fluoride issue.
Conway Corporation has been putting fluoride in its water since the 1960’s.
The Centers for Disease Control in Washington DC calls fluoridated water one of the top ten public health achievements in the 20th century.
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See July 16, 2008: Money Found To Put Fluoride Back In Conway Water