Unlike its larger neighbor to the west, Marion has no plans at this time to lower the amount of fluoride in its water system until it gets some guidance from the state.
Asheville recently lowered the amount of fluoride in its water system by 30 percent. The move comes after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced plans to lower the recommended level of fluoride in drinking water for the first time in nearly 50 years, according to The Associated Press.
The city of Marion started putting fluoride in its drinking water six years ago this month. Although some residents voiced opposition, city officials voted in 2003 to add fluoride after receiving endorsements from local physicians and pediatricians, dentists, the McDowell County Board of Education, the Health Department, The McDowell Hospital, N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and the Partnership for Children and Families. The fluoride was not actually added to Marion’s system until February 2005.
However, recent studies show too much fluoride can affect people’s teeth and in rare cases can cause more serious problems.
City Manager Bob Boyette said Tuesday that the level of fluoride in Marion’s system is well below the limits that are set by both the federal and state governments. The Environmental Protection Agency sets the contaminant level for fluoride at higher than four milligrams per liter.
“That’s the level at which the EPA considers it to be dangerous,” said Boyette.
The state of North Carolina sets the limit for the substance at two milligrams per liter. The city of Marion sets the level even lower at just below one milligram per liter.
“To date, we have received no guidance from the state, which regulates our drinking water,” said Boyette. “That is supposedly coming in the next couple of weeks.”
The city manager spoke with Ray McCall with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources about the federal government possibly changing the recommended level.
“He urged us to wait until we get that guidance,” said Boyette, adding the federal government is simply recognizing that folks can get their fluoride in other ways.
The level of fluoride in the city’s system could be lowered when the new guidelines are announced.
“It will be an easy change to make,” said Boyette.
City of Marion officials said they would wait and see before lowering the level even more.
“Asheville went out on its own and changed it,” said Boyette.
Marion’s water system has approximately 4,300 residential and business customers, which means it serves 9,000 to 10,000 people.