Trenton’s water utility has come under fire from two Lawrence councilmen, but not because of the proposed sale of the township’s city-owned water pipes.
Rather, councilmen Rick Miller and Bob Bostock said they’re outraged that Trenton Water Works never notified its 40,000 suburban customers that in August it stopped adding flouride [sic: fluoride] to its water system.
Public water flouridation [sic: fluoridation] helps prevent tooth decay and has been described as “one of the top public health achievements of the 20th century” by the Centers for Disease Control, according to a New Jersey Dental Association spokesman.
“This failure to inform the public shows a total disregard for the public health,” Miller said. “To stop adding fluoride is an outrageous dereliction of duty by Trenton Mayor Doug Palmer and his administration.”
“It’s just reprehensible. We don’t know what that’s going to do to children’s teeth over time,” he said.
Trenton Water Works general superintendent Joseph McIntyre said the city-owned utility did not notify the public about the flouride [sic] issue because it had planned to restart flouridation [sic] more quickly than it has.
“In an attempt to reintroduce the flouride [sic], we held off on notifying our customers,” McIntyre said. “We kind of shot ourselves in the foot.”
Advertisements explaining the flouride [sic] situation are slated to appear in area newspapers this weekend, he said.
McIntyre also said flouridation [sic] is not legally required, and noted that it is somewhat controversial because it allegedly can cause adverse health effects in some consumers of flouridated [sic] water.
Trenton’s flouridation [sic] shutoff began Aug. 20 after the utility’s supplier ran out of dry powder flouride [sic], McIntyre said.
At the same time, as part of a larger system upgrade, a contract tor began work to switch Trenton Water Works to liquid flouride [sic], which is easier to obtain, he said.
McIntyre said the utility ordered more powder flouride [sic] but by the time it arrived in October the equipment to add it to the water supply had already been removed. He said reattaching it was impossible so the utility instead focused on installing new equipment for liquid flouride [sic] as quickly as possible.
Trenton Water Works had told the state Department of Environmental Protection that flouridation [sic] would stop for just one or two months, but in February the agency found out flouridation [sic] still hadn’t resumed, according to a Feb. 2 letter to McIntyre from Karen Fell, chief of the bureau of safe drinking water implementation.
CDC guidelines say a lack of flouridation [sic] for one or two months should not result in “an immediate increase in tooth decay,” but it appeared the utility had “greatly exceeded” that duration, the letter said.
Fell instructed McIntyre to contact the state’s dental director and to notify all customers with notices included with their bills.
McIntyre argued that sending such notices would be very expensive — costing about $20,000 — and that it would be too long before the next quarterly water bills were sent out, he said.
Instead the DEP agreed to his proposal to put advertisements in the paper, he said. The ads will say flouridation [sic] will return by May 1, and possibly as soon as April 1.
But Miller, who along with Bostock sent out a press release Tuesday attacking the flouridation [sic] suspension and the lack of notification, said there is no reason Trenton Water Works could not have notified customers, pediatricians and dentists back in August.
Last month Lawrence’s council voted 4-0 with one abstention to allow the sale of the suburban water infrastructure, and Miller said the overdue revelation of the lack of flouridation [sic] reinforces the benefits of new ownership.
“I’m in support of the water sale, and this just underscores it even more,” he said. “The water system needs to be handled differently than it was in the past, and I think Trenton recognizes that.”