The Hastings Utilities Board of Public Works discussed a bill Thursday now being considered by the Nebraska Legislature that would require city’s to fluoridate their water.
“I don’t see anything wrong with the bill,” said board member Willis Hunt. “If people feel as they did in the past, they can create another initiative to say they don’t want it. Otherwise, I don’t see anything wrong with the bill”
In three separate elections in 1955, 1968 and 1974, Hastings residents soundly defeated the addition of fluoride to the city’s water supply.
HU board chairman George Anderson said he would like to hear the Hastings City’s Council’s opinion on fluoridation before the HU board takes any stance on the issue.
According to the bill, introduced by Sen. Joel Johnson of Kearney, any political subdivision that provides the water supply for any city or village, with a population of more than 1,000 people, would be required to add fluoride to its water supply.
However, if the bill is approved, cities could hold an election to prohibit the addition of fluoride prior to Jan. 1, 2009.
HU environmental engineer Marty Stange said HU would have to put fluoride into each of its 25 wells to ensure that all HU customers receive the required amount of fluoride.
In a letter to Hastings pediatric dentist Jessica Meeske in 2002, HU manage Marv Schultes said the capital costs to install the equipment for fluoridation would be $750,000 and the annual operation and maintenance costs would be $100,000.
Once the proposed water treatment facility is built north of the Union Pacific railroad tracks along Baltimore Avenue, Stange said that facility is planned to be able to fluoridate the entire water system. He estimates the facility will likely be built within the next 10 years.
Board member Willis Hunt said there is nothing in the bill that addresses what happens if a community doesn’t follow the directive. He agreed with Anderson that the conversation should first be had among the city council members.
Several board members also expressed concerns that there were not dates in the bill as to exactly how long communities had until they had to start fluoridating the water.
“We just need some clarification,” said board member Ed Schlachter. “It’s very easy for someone who has fluoride in their water to write a bill to require it for everyone else.”
Board member Chuck Shoemaker said he is personally in support of the bill. He says he doesn’t know how residents felt about the issue when they voted against fluoridating the water in 1974 but he said people need to look at it from today’s perspective.
“I’m in favor of the bill too personally but the democratic way is to have the people vote on it,” said member Bob Poppe.
The HU board took no action on the issue but asked the council members in attendance to discuss it and bring the council’s opinions back to the HU board.