Commission approves pilot project with safer chemical treatment
The Marathon City Utility Commission last week Wednesday agreed to be part of a Department of Health Service (DHS) paid-for pilot program to add fluoride to public drinking water supplies more safely.
Under the proposal, the state will pay for Marathon City to build a $15,000 platform in its water treatment building to add soluble fluoride tablets to treated water. The process will end the current danger that fluorosilic acid, the source of the village’s fluoride for water, could accidentally spill and mix with chlorine, stored in the same building.
Village administrator Andy Kurtz said municipalities in several states, including Georgia, Florida and Missouri, have switched to the tablet method of adding fluoride to water. He said that the DHS in Wisconsin is eager to adopt the practice here, especially given a trend among municipalities to end fluoridation of water due to cost.
Kurtz said he considered the possibility of ending fluoridation of water given a Department of Natural Resources mandate to spend between $75,000 and $125,000 to remodel its water plant and isolate its fluorosilic acid and chlorine supplies. “Those chemicals don’t play together well,” he told commission members.
Kurtz said replacing the fluorosilic acid with water soluble tablets seemed to be a best approach. He said DHS wanted Marathon City to pilot the project for the rest of the state.
“DHS is excited as all get out to do this,” he said.
The administrator said the tablets will cost about $2,200 a year from KC Industries. This is more than the $700 a year the village currently spends on fluorosilic acid, he said, but, given a DNR waiver, the village could save up to $8,600 a year on weekend employee overtime labor to monitor fluoride pumps and perform other chores. The savings will be realized once the new sewage treatment plant is in operation, Kurtz said. The DNR, he continued, will permit the village to get by with five days per week monitoring.
Commission members agreed to pursue the pilot project.
“We’d be foolish not to give it a whirl,” said commission chairman Andy Berens.
Commission members considered the pros and cons of adding fluoride to drinking water supplies. The commission looked at fact sheets provided by the Fluoride Action Network, an organization that opposes fluoridation, and heard from local dentist Dr. Noelle Marks, a staunch supporter of adding fluoride to drinking water.
Marks said adding fluoride to water in Marathon City demonstrably improves the dental health of village residents .”I see this in my practice,” she said. “People who drink well water outside of the village have more cavities than people inside the village. It truly makes a difference for us.”
Marks said fluoride is safe. She said some people can ingest too much of the chemical but “this is not very often… one in a million.”
The dentist said her father, Dr. Mark Meacham, also a dentist, pushed to have fluoride added to Marathon City’s water in 1974 when he was a village board trustee.