A dentist’s tool in the fight against tooth decay could soon be stripped from municipal water.
Norfolk council voted 6-2 in favour of following staff’s recommendations to remove fluoride from both Simcoe and Delhi municipal drinking water systems at this week’s council-in-committee session.
The report, prepared by the county’s environmental services division, cited operators’ long-term exposure to hydrofluosilic acid and the opportunity for both mechanical and human error in dosing as reasons in favour of its removal.
Bob Fields, the county’s water compliance supervisor, explained to council that the county has to follow the provincially-mandated .5 to .8 ppm benchmark of fluoride in both Simcoe and Delhi municipal water. With fluoride being so strictly regulated by the government, he explained, small variances are frowned upon.
“It still counts as a non-compliance,” he said. “It’s a strike on our report card.”
But Norfolk council was more concerned about the issue of fairness to other communities without fluoride in their municipal drinking water systems. Currently, the Waterford, Port Dover and Port Rowan water systems don’t receive the provincially-mandated .5 to .8 ppm of the cavity-fighting chemical.
“Those other three systems are paying for Simcoe and Delhi, which I don’t think is necessarily fair,” said Mayor Dennis Travale, adding that perhaps the cost should be shifted solely onto fluoride users’ shoulders.
He also asked general manager Eric D’Hondt of the Public Works and Environmental Services department how much it would cost to add fluoride to all three systems.
D’Hondt estimated it would be about $130,000 in capital and $16,000 in operating costs for each of the three systems.
With this in mind, Travale felt there should be some consistency amongst all municipal water systems.
“As I said, let’s do it with all the systems or with none of the systems,” he said.
But the fluoride discussion couldn’t be complete without dissecting the benefits of fluoridated water.
OTHER SOURCES AVAILABLE
“I think everyone who brushes their teeth has access to fluoride which is in almost every toothpaste we have,” said Port Dover Coun. John Wells.
Travale also added that many Norfolk residents still rely on well water, and even those on municipal water are turning to bottled water.
But for those desiring fluoride in their water, D’Hondt said there are fluoride tablets that can be added to regular water and fluoride treatments at dentists’ offices.
“There are avenues of getting fluoride,” he said.
Many councillors agreed that the county’s responsibility is to ensure clean and safe drinking water rather than pump additional chemicals into the system.
“Let’s keep the water clean and what anyone else wants to add for health and comfort, that’s up to them,” Waterford Coun. Harold Sonnenberg said.
But both Travale and councillors anticipate this will be a hotly contested public decision, expecting deputations to be made before next week’s decision.
“It’s a very, very difficult decision,” Wells lamented. “Whatever decision we make, it won’t be cost-saving.”
Travale also stressed this too — that council’s final decision to remove fluoride will not be a “cost-saving exercise,” although the county could save $43,800 in annual operating costs.
The final decision about removing fluoride from both Simcoe and Delhi water systems will be made at next week’s Wednesday council session.