PINELLAS PARK – Residents within the Pinellas Park water service district could have fluoride added back into their water supply, despite a recent decision to stop the practice at the county level.
The city would have to spend about $108,000 for one-time infrastructure costs and about $71,000 annually to supplement its water with fluoride, Public Works Administrator Tom Nicholls said. City staff has been researching the cost and feasibility of the project at the direction of the Pinellas Park council.
“It’s very doable,” Nicholls said. “It’s really not that expensive.”
County commissioners voted 4-3 to stop adding fluoride to the water in October, a decision that became effective Jan. 1. Pinellas Park is a wholesale customer of Pinellas County Utilities and therefore affected by the decision.
But fluorinating the water at the city level is just a matter of adding extra tanks in the city’s two pumping stations – at 7301 Belcher Road and 7650 Bryan Dairy Road – and the equipment to inject the fluoride into the water supply, Utilities Director Keith Sabiel said. Maintenance would include monitoring fluoride levels on a daily basis. Staff is still investigating whether that would involve hiring a new position or whether existing staff could be shifted to fill the responsibility, Sabiel said.
“It’s going to take probably six hours a day for operation,” he added.
City staff will give a full presentation on the issue during the next workshop Jan. 24. The council, which has largely spoken out against the county’s decision, will weigh in on any changes to city water based on staff findings.
The issue has been a point of controversy and cause for heated debate in Pinellas County. Proponents for keeping fluoride in the water supply say that the practice helps residents, especially those who can’t afford good dental care, to prevent dental decay. Others argue that ingesting too much of the chemical over time can lead to adverse health effects.