The Ripon Common Council voted to suspend the city’s water fluoridation program until some of its wells are complete and compliant with state regulations for storing chemicals at water utilities.
During a council meeting earlier this month, utility officials presented key points from the 2022 Sanitary Survey Report for the Ripon Water Utility, which found deficiencies and non-compliance issues within the city’s water system.
Every three years, a DNR engineer conducts a tour of the Ripon water utility’s wells and water towers to ensure the city follows DNR standards.
The DNR identified at least two significant deficiencies and four non-significant deficiencies.
The first significant deficiency identified by the DNR was related to the storage of chlorine and fluoride chemical feeds in the same room at three out of four city wells. The presentation said chlorine gas and hydrofluorosilicic acid are hazardous and potentially deadly chemicals if they ever mixed outside of being injected into finished water.
To comply with DNR regulations, the city would need to separate the chemicals with a physical barrier, which could require installing a wall between them or constructing a new room.
The second significant deficiency was related to overflow piping at Ripon’s reservoirs. Two of Ripon’s overflow pipes are facing the wrong direction.
Both overflow pipes must be rotated 90 degrees toward the ground, and the DNR wants the city to drain the pipes onto riprap to reduce erosion. The city anticipates completing that work in Spring 2023.
Although these deficiencies were identified this time around, Water Utility Manager Jeremy Jess, Lead Operator David Laviolette and City Administrator Adam Sonntag noted the city performed better this time than it did in 2019.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drinking fluoridated water keeps teeth strong and reduces tooth decay by about 25% in children and adults, thereby saving oral care costs for families and the health care system.
Stephanie Hopf, Oral Health Program coordinator in Fond du Lac County, sent a letter to the city with fears that the suspension may become a permanent discontinuation.
Wisconsin State Dental Director Russ Dunkel spoke at the meeting against the group’s plan to suspend fluoridation, encouraging the oral health and safety of the community with continuing fluoridation while advocating for the safety of water utility employees by choosing a different solution.
Kari Spencer with the state Department of Health Services also asked council members to reconsider chemical storage lockers by noting that in 2021, the city of Ripon had received an award of excellence for its operations at optimal levels.
Despite some opposition, Jess reassured the council members that halting fluoride in the water shouldn’t cause negative effects for residents, especially if they brush their teeth regularly. Ripon’s water currently has a naturally occurring fluoride level of 0.35 milligrams per liter, whereas a person typically consumes 1.2 milligrams of fluoride when brushing their teeth.
The option to suspend the city’s fluoridation immediately brings the water utility to compliance for the significant deficiencies noted earlier this month. The resulting savings, Jess said, which would be around $300,000, would be used toward chemical separation at old facilities.
Council members passed this 7-1, with Jonathan Gatzke being the only opposition.
*Original full-text article online at: https://www.riponpress.com/news/ripon-suspends-fluoridation-program-until-problems-with-wells-are-fixed/article_afd10c68-5543-11ed-967f-eb100746db66.html