OGDENSBURG — City officials are considering changes to how the municipality fluoridates its drinking water to see if there are ways to save money and improve safety conditions when handling the chemicals and equipment needed for the task.
The Development Authority of the North Country has completed a report that compares several options for fluoridating water in Ogdensburg. The purpose is to compare methods of fluoridation at Ogdensburg’s water treatment plant to seek new efficiencies and improve safety, according to DANC officials.
Ogdensburg City Council received the report in recent days, but has yet to weigh in formally on the matter.
Christian Fout, a water quality supervisor for DANC, said the state Department of Health supports fluoridation of drinking water as a safe and effective practice to help prevent and control tooth decay. The state recommends that community water systems target an optimal concentration 0.7 parts per million of fluoride in community drinking water.
Ogdensburg currently has what some consider to be an antiquated system to fluoridate tap water. The process involves using a liquid known as fluorosilicic acid. The chemical is delivered in 55 gallon drums, and the plant typically orders four drums at a time, according to Mr. Fout’s report. He said the current system requires plant workers to physically haul the chemical one barrel at a time, and then slowly add it to the water supply as it’s used.
“One drum is manually moved into the fluorosilicic acid room by water treatment plant personnel,” Mr. Fout said. “The fluorosilicic acid is then transferred from the drum into a 30-gallon day tank using a hand-held electric pump.”
To avoid unnecessary exposure, gloves, a face shield and other protective clothing are required, according to the report.
Using its current system, Ogdensburg paid approximately $9,500 for the fluoride chemical in 2017, and expended approximately 33 hours of labor. The cost of the labor was not calculated in the report.
One of the alternatives to the current system, according to the DANC official, would involve switching to a different chemical, known as sodium fluoride, to treat the city’s water. Unlike the liquid fluorosilicic acid now being used, sodium fluoride comes in a powdered or granular form and is shipped in 50-pound bags.
But to make the change, new equipment would be needed, and an estimated 9,900 pounds of the chemical would be required annually at a cost of about $9,400. Labor costs would also increase from the current average of 33 hours annually to 100 hours, according to Mr. Fout’s report, negating any savings from decreased manpower.
A recommended alternative, according to Mr. Fout, is to continue using the same liquid fluoride treatment the city uses now, but update the fluoridation equipment to allow for larger storage capacity. Such a move would have up-front costs, but would result in a safer process and less handling of the chemical by municipal water treatment plant workers,
The DANC report determined that if a larger tank were to be installed the supplier could deliver the fluorosilicic acid in bulk and pump directly into the storage tank. The process would eliminate the need for the water treatment plant operators to handle each 55-gallon drum.
The total upgrades would cost approximately $24,000, according to the report. Money for the improvement would be sought through state grants.
City Council has yet to make a recommendation on whether to stay with the current fluoridation system or seek grant money for improvements.