POTTSTOWN — Officials believe the snow storm is probably responsible for the paltry turn out at a series of public hearings Wednesday on a proposal to stop adding fluoride to Pottstown’s public water supply.
Another hearing will be scheduled; although, another date has not yet been set, said Brent Wagner, superintendent at the borough Wastewater Treatment Plant.
By 2 p.m., the only person who had shown up to offer comments on the proposal was Ruth Cole, director of clinical services for the Montgomery County Health Department. She said the health department is not taking an “advocacy” position, but did fill out a sheet answering “no” to the question “should fluoride be removed from Pottstown’s drinking water?”
She wrote that “fluoride is an important part of good dental health,” adding that “community water fluoridation is a cost-effective means of receiving fluoride. Most people are in favor (or neutral) to water fluoridation.”
Contacted by The Mercury, Cole said she based that last statement on a survey taken by the Dental Health Task Force. She said 127 Montgomery County residents were surveyed and 49 percent were in favor of fluoridation while 39 percent were neutral.
Cole also noted that two of those who took the survey were from Pottstown and “both were unsure if their water was fluoridated.”
Although the health department does not take an “official position” on the issue, she said it takes its direction from the federal Centers for Disease Control. “We echo their recommendation that water be fluoridated,” she said.
“We’ve been happy that Pottstown has been doing it for so long, they’ve been a real leader in the county,” said Cole.
She confirmed that Pottstown is the only community in Montgomery County that fluoridates its water and said the department has not pushed other communities to do the same because it does not take an “advocacy role” in questions like this.
“We want to be a source of information,” said Cole.
One source of information which Cole recalls was a dentist who worked for a long time in the dental clinic that used to be housed at Pottstown High School .
“It’s only anecdotal evidence, but he told me more than once that he was delighted in Pottstown with the children there and how little tooth decay he saw there compared with other communities that did not have fluoride in their water,” she said.
At the hearing, Wagner had prepared information that was both “pro” and “con” for adding fluoride to the water, as well as general information. This included the fact that the fluoride concentration the water plant shoots for is 1 part fluoride per 1 million parts of water.
It also noted that while Pottstown may be the only Montgomery County community with fluoridated water, water systems in Reading, Douglassville, Phoenixville, Lancaster, Bethlehem and Easton all add fluoride.
He said it cost the plant $19,089 in 2007 to add fluoride and $16,821 in 2008. Those prices were the result of a five-year contract that ended this year. As a result, the new cost for fluoridation in Pottstown is $35,000 in 2009 — this on top of the $10,000 to $20,000 it will cost for the caustic soda to counteract the effects of adding the fluoride, Wagner said.