THE PASSAIC Valley Water Commission is adamantly opposed to proposed state legislation A3709 that would mandate fluoridation in water systems. This ill-conceived proposal would impose involuntary medication, remove the right of local communities to decide whether they want fluoridation, prove costly to utilities and consumers alike, and add no benefits in terms of safer consumption of water or additional quality.

Proponents of this legislation argue that fluoridation is the best way since sliced bread to make sure everyone in the population is dosed with a sufficient amount of fluoride to reduce tooth decay.

If this isn’t “mass medication,” then we don’t know what is.

Here’s what they neglect to say: Less than 3 percent of water delivered by public water utilities is actually consumed. And if you throw into this equation the fact that consumers have drifted to other water sources like bottled water, then not only are we talking about a lot of wasted fluoride, but also a massive failure to reach the targeted population.

PVWC is committed to deliver quality water and we have complex treatment processes in place, for example, to make water safe from a microbiological standpoint, and to remove sediment and improve the clarity.

No impact on quality

We’re always seeking ways to improve the quality of water, but let’s be clear that fluoridation is the only “water treatment technique” that has no impact on that quality. Zero.

However, fluoride, which is an aggressive chemical, would have deleterious effects on our workers, facilities and equipment. Handling it can cause corrosion to the skin, burns to the nose and throat if inhaled, and other health and safety risks. Windows in water treatment plants that use this process are scored by condensing vapors.

When a water utility adds fluoride to the water, adjustments to reach the optimum levels are often required. This is accomplished by adding sodium, which is linked to hypertension. Numerous public water systems in New Jersey already exceed the recommended upper limit for sodium.

In addition to using a questionable “mass medication” technique that would fail to reach a targeted population or improve water quality, but would impose health and safety risks, this proposed legislation would prove costly to us and consumers.

For PVWC, this unfunded mandate would require us to construct three new systems in Little Falls, High Crest and West Milford, and impose substantial additional costs on the North Jersey District Water Supply Commission, a main supplier of water for our utility.

For PVWC, we estimate this would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, including both operations and capital charges, which would have to be recovered from our customers. PVWC as well as our customers are already facing challenges during these tough economic times, and this is an additional burden that we don’t need or want.

PVWC, along with the American Water Works Association, also opposes this legislation because it would override decisions that should be made by local government. In the past, communities seeking to add fluoridation to their water systems went to Town Hall, not Trenton.

Dental problems

In addition to all of the above, the health impact of fluoride comes into question when one learns that high levels can lead to dental fluorosis, or mottled enamel and discolored teeth, and sometimes erosion of the teeth at the gum line.

The Environmental Protection Agency has found a link between prolonged exposure to high-level fluoride concentration and skeletal fluorosis, as well as digestive and nervous system disorders.

Given all that we know, we urge that the proposed unfunded mandate for fluoridation in water systems be put out to dry so that PVWC and other water utilities can continue to focus on providing the highest quality water to New Jersey consumers.