Fluoride Action Network

Costs to treat water flood town coffers

Source: The MetroWest Daily News | Daily News staff
Posted on September 28th, 2008

The cost of chemicals injected into many municipal water supplies is on the rise, according to area public works departments.

Chemicals like fluoride, which is added to municipal water to improve dental health, and potassium hydroxide used to increase the pH level of the water supply are among the products that have increased in cost.

In Natick, Public Works head Charles Sisitsky noted the cost of fluoride increased in the past year from $9,600 to $19,000 for the town.

The cost of potassium hydroxide, meanwhile, tripled to nearly $36,000.

Al Renzi, Superintendent of Sudbury Water District, had also noticed an increase in the cost of potassium hydroxide.

Price of that chemical bumped 300 percent for Sudbury, as the town is paying $160,000 more to boost its pH levels this year.

“We’ve been told the amount of potassium needed in emerging countries like China and India for fertilizer and stuff has risen,” he said. “It’s more profitable to sell to those countries.”

Jared Adams, chairman of the Holliston water commissioners, said last week the cost of the potassium hydroxide for his town had jumped from 14 cents per unit to 44 cents. The climbing price of water additives is part of the reason Holliston water officials are seeking to tap their budget surplus at fall Town Meeting to keep this year’s budget in the black.

The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, meanwhile, is also reporting an increase in the price of fluoride.

The MWRA serves 50 communities. It provides Westborough, Southborough and Framingham with water; 220 million gallons course through the authority’s pipes every day.

Previously, MWRA paid $2,300 per dry ton. This year, the going rate is just under $2,700. That organization uses 400 dry tons of fluoride annually.

Ria Convery, MWRA spokeswoman, chalked up the boost to the consolidation of the phosphate fertilizer industry. Fluoride can be a byproduct of phosphate fertilizer.

Jack Mitchell of the Wayland Water Department noted that town has paid about $5 more per bag of fluoride. That town uses about 20 bags per week.

However, not all municipalities are feeling the crunch.

Anthony Marques, Hudson Department of Public Works director, meanwhile, said he hasn’t witnessed any cost increase in regards to fluoride. Hudson is not part of the MWRA.

Likewise in Marlborough, which is partially hooked up to the MWRA, Doran Crouse, the city’s assistant commissioner of utilities, said a three-year contract with another water management entity has insulated the city from such chemical price hikes. That contract accounts for annual cost of living increases only, said Crouse.