The availability and quantity of potable water — water that is safe to drink — is a topic of great discussion in many municipalities across the state, as can be the subject of whether to add fluoride to a city’s water supply.
In Shawnee, city commissioners said they understood the importance of the topic of water availability and because of that importance, last year they approved a rate increase for utility customers.
The structured rate increase is designed to help repay loans from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, once approved and received, for replacements and repairs of various portions of the water treatment systems.
Jim Bierd, utility director, said the question of whether or not to add fluoride to Shawnee’s water has recently been raised — again.
He said “a long time ago,” the city did add fluoride to the water treated for citizens.
Later, a decision was made to stop the fluoridation process, he said.
And although there is some fluoride that appears naturally in the water, Bierd said there are some dentists who do not believe it is enough.
“I’m not a dentist but I think there is enough natural fluoride that if someone uses toothpaste or mouthwash with fluoride, it should be fine,” Bierd said.
Bierd could be right, according to the website fluoridealert.org, which states, “Fluoride is not an essential nutrient…no disease has ever been linked to a fluoride deficiency. Humans can have perfectly good teeth without fluoride.”
The same website argues, “Once fluoride is put in the water it is impossible to control the dose each individual receives,” because individuals vary in water consumption and additional fluoride intake.
However, because of the requests he has received, Bierd said the city is researching whether or not the costs of adding fluoride are affordable for the city and if there is a true need for it and justifiable benefit from it.
“We’re looking at it because we’ve had some questions on it but the jury is still out,” he said. “I’m not for or against it, I just don’t know enough yet. I can say it is not budgeted now and we try to stay with the budget.”
Bierd said any project or purchase that is $25,000 or more — which he believes the equipment needed to fluoridate the water would be — must go to the commission for approval and then must be put out for bid.
“Right now, we have no equipment at the water plant to do it,” he said. “There are just a lot of ifs, ands and buts to it. If it’s cheaper than we think it’s going to be, then we will see.”
Bierd said the main item to consider, especially given the current budget situation, is what is most needed for the community. He said if the expense of the fluoridation equipment exceeds the need for purchasing and using it, then it will not be on the top of the list of projects.
However, if it is determined the need is worth the expense, “we could always move things around.”
“You’ve got to prioritize,” he said.
Due to the Fourth of July weekend, attempts at reaching several local dentists and other dental experts within the area were unsuccessful Friday.