Tonight, City Council will consider reintroducing fluoride to the city’s drinking water at its 7 p.m. meeting.

While dental and medical experts believe the mineral helps prevent tooth decay, critics argue fluoride is a poison.

Harrisonburg began adding fluoride in its water in 1973 but discontinued the practice in August 2016 while workers replaced a leaky tank. Council voted to stop adding fluoride until the system was replaced, said Public Utilities Director Mike Collins.

In March, Collins discussed reintroducing fluoride into the city’s water supply. Council did not agree to use the chemical again, but told Collins to revisit the topic down the line.

Tonight he will present a draft ordinance that would allow sodium fluoride or “other suitable salt or acid of fluorine” to be reintroduced into Harrisonburg’s water supply at levels recommended by the Virginia Department of Health, according to the draft ordinance

Council will consider but not vote on the ordinance tonight.

The system will be a 65 square foot addition to the Grandview Water Treatment Plant, with most costs stemming from the equipment. , Collins said. The project is estimated to cost roughly $230,000.

Council voted unanimously to spend $188.650 on a new fluoridation system for the plant in March.

Collins applied for $40,000 in state grants through the Virginia Department of Health to help offset the costs. he will ask council to authorize the city manager to sign a memorandum of understanding with the department to secure the money.

Council will give input to public utilities staff about the direction of the project and the language in the draft ordinance, Collins said.

If council agrees to the memorandum with the Virginia Department of Health and the money is received, Collins plans to begin advertising for and accepting bids on the project in January. Construction would be scheduled to end in June, at which point council must approve a new ordinance allowing staff to add fluoride to the city’s water.

Collins said the chemical can be harmful if consumed in large enough doses – about four times the amount health officials say is beneficial.

According to the Centers for Disease control and prevention adding fluoride to water at 0.7 – 0.9 parts per million is a top 10 health measure of the last century, according to a city memorandum.

Collins said he has received calls in support of and against adding fluoride to the water.

“I get as many calls wanting to know when I’m going to put it back,” he said, “as I do wanting to not put it back.”

Ron Kirk, who owns a small business in Franklin, W.Va., about 40 miles west of downtown Harrisonburg spoke out against the city adding fluoride to its potable water in March.

People in this country are ingesting a chemical that has never been tested to show that it is safe,” he told the council on March 28, adding that the acid is “one of the most highly reactive ions in the universe.”

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