If you have an opinion about a proposal to halt the addition of fluoride to Pottstown’s public water supply, then make some time on your schedule on Wednesday.
In order to gather public opinion on the proposal — and to comply with Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection rules — the Pottstown Borough Authority will hold public hearings at three different times.
They will be held from 9 to 11 a.m., from 2 to 4 p.m., and from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday.
All the hearings will take place in the Council Chambers room on the third floor of Borough Hall, 100 E. High St.
And even more hearings may take place.
Brent Wagner, superintendent of the Pottstown Wastewater Treatment Plant, who is in charge of organizing the hearing, said with snow expected Wednesday, bad weather may actually result in another day of hearings being scheduled.
“If it snows, we’ll still hold the hearings, but I’ll set up another one in the future,” Wagner said.
“It wouldn’t be appropriate not to have another hearing if people can’t get there because of the weather,” he said.
The proposal was first raised during the budget deliberations of the borough authority, during which a spike in the cost of chemicals was noted. Noting that eliminating fluoride from the water treatment process would save $32,000 a year, the borough authority voted 3-2 on Dec. 16 to push ahead with the process by which Pottstown would halt the addition of fluoride to the water.
In addition to the cost savings, authority member Don Read said the presence of fluoride in Pottstown’s water could make it harder to market to other water companies. Currently, Pottstown’s is the only public water system in Montgomery County that adds the chemical, which dentists insist is a great public health asset in the prevention of cavities.
In fact, Pottstown is one of only nine public water systems in all of southeast Pennsylvania that adds fluoride to its water.
Last month, the authority heard from two local dentists, both of whom pleaded with the members to continue adding fluoride to the water, a plea which won the votes of authority members Aram Ecker and Tom Carroll.
Bruce Terry, a Phoenixville endodontist, and Elkins Park dentist Bernard Dishler and a representative of the Pennsylvania Dental Association, told the authority that adding fluoride helps prevents dental decay by “40 to 60 percent,” particularly among low-income populations who might not otherwise be able to afford dental care.
“Every $1 invested in fluoride in the water saves $38 in dental treatments later on,” Dishler told the authority last month.
Since the vote was taken, Wagner said while neither he nor borough hall has been flooded with calls, officials have taken note of the positions being taken in The Mercury by advocates of both positions.
“Some of the ‘Sound Offs’ have had very good information,” Wagner said in reference to the paper’s call-in feature.
“All the dentists seem to be in favor of it, but everyone else has been saying to remove it,” he said. He added that, personally, “I have no opinion on it.”
On Jan. 6, Pottstown dentist Mark J. Piacine wrote a letter to the editor saying he was “shocked” that the authority was considering doing away with adding fluoride.
“Our town was among the first communities of its size, a leader in the nation, when it established this dental benefit more than 40 years ago,” he wrote. “Not adding fluoride to our Pottstown water supply would be a definite step backward.”
On the other side of the argument, Lorraine Ruppe of Pottstown, in a Jan. 11 letter to the editor, chided “Aram Ecker and Tom Carroll for blindly supporting deceptive dental association spin related to adding fluoride to Pottstown’s water.”
She wrote that fluoride’s dental benefits are “topical” and that “swallowing fluoride to prevent tooth decay makes as much sense as swallowing suntan lotion to prevent sunburns.”
Ruppe wrote that “peer reviewed science has raised concerns that fluoride may present unreasonable health risks, particularly among children.” She added that it is suspected in contributing to everything from bone cancer to learning disabilities.
One day earlier, the Alliance for a Clean Environment published a letter citing a review by the National Academy of Sciences which argued that fluoride may contribute to brittle bones, diabetes, reduced IQ and early onset of puberty.