Fort Smith is using a $1.8 million grant to cover startup costs associated with adding fluoride to its water system as mandated by the state.
The grant from the Delta Dental of Arkansas Foundation comes three years after state legislators passed a law requiring water systems serving 5,000 or more customers to fluoridate their public water using funds from any source other than tax revenue. The law, Act 197, affects 34 Arkansas water systems, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.
City directors on Tuesday authorized Fort Smith Mayor Sandy Sanders to execute the fluoride grant agreement; Ward 4 Director George Catsavis abstained from the vote.
“I think that should be voted on by the voters,” he said Wednesday. “I just think the people who live here should have a say about what goes in their water.”
The grant covers costs for fluoridation equipment, in addition to storage buildings for the chemical, at the city’s Lake Fort Smith and Lee Creek water treatment plants. According to Fort Smith Utilities Director Steve Parke, a grant stipulation requires the city to complete the project within 18 months. In a memo to City Administrator Ray Gosack, Parke states he anticipates “an aggressive schedule for the city to meet.”
The city’s annual expense for fluoridation is expected to be in the $100,000 range.
The state Department of Health says fluoride in drinking water at a concentration of 0.7 parts per million “has repeatedly been shown to be a safe, inexpensive and extremely effective method of preventing tooth decay.”
“Because community water fluoridation benefits everyone in the community regardless of age and socio-economic status, fluoridation provides protection against tooth decay in populations with limited access to prevention services,” the department’s website states.
It states that for every dollar spent on water fluoridation, up to $42 is saved in treatment costs for tooth decay.
Fort Smith is the largest city in the state without fluoridated water. Fort Smith voters turned down fluoridation twice in popular votes, in the 1970s and in 1992.
*Original article online at http://www.swtimes.com/article/20140821/NEWS/308219879