If the city of Parsons re-initiates its water fluoridation program, the estimated cost of doing so may delay it past this year.
The city halted its fluoridation program in the spring of 2013 because of the corrosion fluoride was causing to an elbow pipe at the water treatment plant. Derek Clevenger, director of utilities, has said the injection point for the fluoride will have to be relocated. Failure to do so will cause further problems in the future.
In November 2013, after much discussion, the commissioners agreed the city should pursue the needed changes to begin adding fluoride to water again.
At the time, the city staff thought the relocation of the fluoride pump would cost about $50,000. Recently, the staff revealed that the estimate is much higher because the injection point will have to be located at a head tank. Because frequent monitoring will be required, the city will need to have a catwalk built to the tank.
During a Tuesday regular meeting, city commissioners were hesitant to approve the needed work to reintroduce fluoride into the water system. Doing so this year likely would mean that the repair of tanks at the water plant would have to be put on hold. Clevenger said the tanks are a much higher priority, and the commission agreed. The repair of the tanks were budgeted for this year.
On Tuesday, the commissioners heard a report from Bruce Allman of CH2M Hill, the engineering firm that studied the fluoride issue as well as the possible relocation of a caustic soda pump that is located near the fluoride injection site.
Allman broke down the costs of three projects, two of which, the elevated walkway, or catwalk, and the fluoride pump relocation are related.
The city staff had told the commission that the price of the fluoride project had increased to about $190,000, but part of that cost includes the relocation of the caustic soda injection point to outside the plant.
The fluoride injection site, as proposed by CH2M Hill, would be relocated to another site inside the plant, at the head tank where raw water comes into the plant. That would require the catwalk to allow city workers to more easily monitor fluoride injection as is frequently required.
Allman said the catwalk should be built anyway to increase the safety of employees as they maintain the head tank, and City Manager Debbie Lamb said it should have been included when the plant was built in 2001 as designed by another engineering firm, Bartlett & West Engineers.
Allman said the walkway would cost the city about $76,000. Moving the fluoride injection point to the head tank would cost $66,500, and relocating the caustic soda injection site would cost $51,500.
Allman said the caustic soda injection site should be moved because the alkaline chemical that is used to stabilize the acidity of the water causes scaling of the pipes where it is located. Scaling leads to clogging, and Clevenger said that could be one reason why a pump recently blew up at the plant on Saturday. The city is using a backup pump while the other one is repaired.
After Allman answered numerous questions from the commissioners, they discussed the options of proceeding with relocation of the caustic soda injection site, building the catwalk and/or relocating the fluoride injection site. They even considered continuing the fluoride program at its existing location and just repairing the piping there every 10 years or so as it becomes too corroded. In the end, the commission decided to not take action on any of the projects, at least for now.
A couple commissioners agreed the caustic soda injection should be relocated eventually, but that it is not high priority when compared to tank repair. Commissioner Kevin Cruse indicated he thought the issue should be resolved sooner rather than later.
“This is a preventive maintenance issue in my eyes,” Cruse said.
Stabilizing the water is regulated by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, and the city does that by using caustic soda, while fluoridation is only an option used by cities to add strength to consumers’ enamels.
Other commissioners were afraid moving the caustic soda injection site might come at the expense of some of the tank work, but Lamb said the city probably could spend $51,500 on the caustic soda project and still have enough money to make all of the needed tank repairs. She cautioned that not all of the work could be done if the fluoride, catwalk and caustic soda jobs were completed.
“If we were to do all of it, you could have a problem if something went wrong with one of the tanks,” Lamb said.
Mayor Jeff Perez said he didn’t have enough data to make a decision on any of the options on Tuesday.
Cruse said he was leaning toward leaving fluoride out of the water. In 2013, after much research he decided the city should add fluoride to its water, but after the national recommended dosage was dropped it caused him to wonder about the worst-case scenario dealing with the purported side effects of too much fluoride.
Commissioner Aaron Keith Stewart, who wasn’t on the commission in 2013, said he agreed with Cruse that the city should relocate the caustic soda injection site but leave the added fluoride out of the water.
“I’m not for fluoride. I don’t think that’s a surprise to anyone. That’s not something I’m even considering,” Stewart said.