HARRISONBURG – Rockingham County should reconsider whether to continue treating its water with fluoride, the county public works director says.
Warren Heidt will submit next year’s public works budget proposal to the Board of Supervisors on Jan. 15.
In the proposal, he plans to make a footnote saying fluoridation funding can be cut at Three Springs Water Treatment Plant in McGaheysville, the county’s only water treatment plant.
The funding represents only a small fraction of the public works budget, Heidt said, and he’ll note many other items that could be cut.
Heidt said the plant provides water to about 3,200 customers, and fluoridation can be cut from the budget because it’s not required by the state.
But he stressed that it’s not a budget issue; it is a public health issue.
“There’s strong arguments on both sides,” he said. “What we want to do is evaluate the arguments further and decide if it’s in the best interest of our users.”
Heidt said the issue came to his attention after Timberville revisited its fluoridation policy a few months ago, and a debate ensued there.
Fluoride has been added to water for decades to prevent cavities and tooth decay, but opponents – including some dentists – say it does more harm than good.
About The Plant
It costs $12,000 of the plant’s total budget of $30,000 to put the chemical in the water, Heidt said.
The county follows the lead of the Virginia Department of Health, which recommends fluoridation at “optimal levels” of between 0.07 and 1.2 parts per million, officials said.
The county’s water is treated with hydrofluorosilicic acid, Heidt said. At 1 part per million, the fluoridation is within VDH’s optimal range.
Most of the 3,200 customers who get water from the county are east of Harrisonburg, Heidt said, including McGaheysville and Penn Laird residents.
Other localities in the county, such as Dayton and Bridgewater, have water treatment plants, and other parts of the county get water from Harrisonburg, all of which is fluoridated.
The benefits of the practice were questioned in Timberville a few months ago after the Town Council decided to reconsider its fluoridation policy.
“Sixty years of scientific research and practice have proven it is the best way to prevent tooth decay,” said Alan Robbins, a dentist with a practice in Timberville. “Sixty years of practice and research have also proven that it’s safe.”
However, Joan Hulvey, a Broadway resident who owns a business in Timberville, said the scientific community is changing its opinions on fluoride because studies have shown it’s unsafe.
“The science is finally emerging. … It’s hard to change people’s thoughts,” she said. “We all grew up thinking this was a good thing, so to find out it’s not is difficult to adjust to.”
Timberville Town Council voted in October to put the issue before its residents for a vote.
Supervisors Not Considering
The debate in Timberville caught the attention of other officials in Rockingham County.
“We’re following the issue as it’s developing in Timberville, and we continue to get information on it,” County Administrator Joe Paxton said.
However, Paxton said no one has brought the issue to the board or requested fluoridation stop.
“At this point, it’s not a matter that the board is considering,” he said. “There does appear to be conflicting information pro and con.”