Nearly a month after the Meadville Area Water Authority board voted to fluoridate the city’s water, businesses in the area are in the early stages of determining how the decision will affect them. Similarly, MAWA officials are taking the early steps to begin fluoridation.
“We’re in the process of scheduling our pre-application meeting,” said Thomas Thompson of Gannet Fleming, consulting engineer for MAWA. “DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) likes to see and we would prefer to do a pre-application meeting just to make sure we have all our bases covered.”
There is currently no timeline for the process, which is likely to take months, Thompson said.
As MAWA makes plans to put fluoride in the water, some in the area are making plans to take it out.
“As soon as that decision came through, the phones started ringing,” said Linda Wescott, customer service representative for Culligan Water in Vernon Township.
Callers were interested in reverse osmosis filtration systems to remove fluoride from tap water as well as bottled water dispensers, which would provide fluoride-free drinking water, according to Wescott.
Luminous Water Solutions in Vernon Township is neutral on the issue of community water fluoridation, according to Sales Manager Thea Nixon, but if people are interested in removing fluoride — or anything else, for that matter — from tap water, the company has products that can help. In fact, Nixon said, they have already received inquiries from people curious about what they can do if they don’t want fluoride in their water.
“We can give them high quality water without any chemicals, without anything in it,” she said. “There’s a lot of things in water that you can’t taste, see or smell.”
Municipalities are not to blame for foreign particles in water, Nixon said. It is simply in the nature of water to pick up everything in its path, from pollutants in the soil to elements in the delivery infrastructure.
“It’s not just one thing or another, it’s a lot of things,” she said. “The water’s recycled — we’re drinking the water the dinosaurs drank.”
Of course, humans do many things to that water that likely never occurred to dinosaurs, such as heating it and letting it soak through certain types of ground up beans. Michael Reed, owner of the recently opened coffee shop Tarot Bean Roasting Co., said the addition of fluoride to MAWA’s water would definitely affect his business — and not in a good way.
“It will affect our customer base because we have a lot of customers that do not want the added fluoride,” he said, “so they are planning on not coming to our location anymore.”
“We’re going to look into seeing what we can do filtration-wise,” Reed added.
Fluoridated water is likely to affect the operation of his espresso machine, Reed said, and the basic water filtration system he uses now is not capable of removing it. Upgrading to a filtration system capable of handling all of the water his coffee shop goes through could cost as much as $5,000, according to Reed.
“No matter what decision we make, it’s going to be extremely costly,” he said.
Coffee isn’t the only brew made in Meadville that relies heavily on municipal water. Among the speakers voicing strong opposition to the MAWA board before the fluoridation vote on June 14 was Matteo (Matt) Rachocki, chief executive officer of Voodoo Brewery Co.
“We would have to invest in a rather expensive reverse osmosis filtration system initially plus maintenance annually to remove that (fluoride) from our products, which we do not want in our products,” Rachocki told the board.
On Monday, Rachocki estimated the initial cost of such a system for Voodoo’s Arch Street and Bessemer Street production facilities at $6,000, with an an additional 10 to 20 percent annually for upkeep.
“That’s a lot of money,” he said. “I could do a lot with that money every year.”
“We’d like to consider Meadville our ‘forever home’ and we finally have the facilities and ability to do,” Rachocki added, referring to Voodoo’s purchase of the former 84 Lumber Co. site and expansion of brewing capabilities over the past year. “At this point I don’t think it’s something that would force us to move, but it’s a very difficult pill to swallow — literally.”