If the Parsons City Commission still wants to reintroduce supplemental fluoride into the public water supply, it likely will cost almost $200,000.
The commission instructed the city staff to take the necessary steps to restart fluoridation of the water more than two years ago after the fluoride pump had been off line for several months.
During a Monday city commission meeting, Tommey McLarty of Parsons asked about the delay in adding the fluoride pump back to the water treatment plant. He pointed out the commission had already committed to reintroducing the fluoridation program.
“It fell off the radar,” Commissioner Kevin Cruse said after thanking McLarty for bringing up the issue.
City Manager Debbie Lamb said on Wednesday there is no specific reason for the delay in restarting the program, but the city staff had to work with engineering firm CH2M Hill to weigh all of the options and come up with data, cost analysis and engineering plans before presenting the information to the commission.
The city’s water has gone without added fluoride since the spring of 2013. Derek Clevenger, director of utilities, reported in mid-July that year that the city had not been adding fluoride to the public water supply for about two months because of the corrosion fluoride and caustic soda were causing to an elbow pipe at the water treatment plant.
LaForge and Budd Construction Co. repaired the damage under a contract with the city and moved the injection point for caustic soda to a tank outside the water plant. Clevenger has said the injection point for the fluoride also will have to be relocated. Failure to do so would cause further problems in the future.
In November 2013, the commissioners agreed the city should pursue the needed changes to begin adding fluoride to water again. They did so after much debate.
The commissioners had heard from Parsons dentists in favor of fluoridation because of its ability to strengthen the enamel of teeth, preventing decay. Fluoridation is recommended by most dentists because added fluoride in water helps strengthen adults’ enamel through topical contact. In children, the ingestion of fluoride helps strengthen the enamel on their teeth as they are still being formed.
Others spoke against adding fluoride to the public water supply, citing possible health problems associated with it as well as dosing the public with medication without its permission. The commission, however, cited the national health organizations that favor fluoridation and a lack of reliable studies proving any harm from fluoridation.
In answer to McLarty’s question on Monday, Lamb said the city staff now has a price estimate and will present information to the commissioners during their next regular meeting. The commission will meet on Jan. 19, a Tuesday, instead of the third Monday of the month, Jan. 18, because that is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Lamb cautioned that the expense is going to be greater than thought. The city staff at one time had thought the price would be about $50,000. The estimate has increased to about $190,000.
Clevenger said CH2M Hill has recommended after studying the issue that the new fluoride injection point be located on top of a head tank. The fluoride flow will have to be monitored frequently, so the city will have to build a catwalk to the head tank.
Engineering firm Bartlett & West Engineering drew the original plans for the water treatment plant that included the troubled location of the caustic soda and fluoride pumps.
The city had many problems with the new water plant beginning not long after it started operation. Most of those problems were later corrected through a plan created by CH2M Hill, but essentially the city had to have the water plant rebuilt.
The city settled a lawsuit for $1.8 million against Barlett & West in 2008, but the cost for repairs to the plant far outweighed the settlement.