Village of Saukville – A suburban community is considering dropping fluoride from its drinking water, sparking discussion of another aspect of water – an increasingly contentious topic in southern Wisconsin.
In this case, the question is focused on Saukville, a village in northern Ozaukee County that has grown nearly 6% since the 2000 U.S. census.
The suggestion is the first in recent memory regarding water content rather than supply for fast-growing suburban communities, many of which – especially in booming Waukesha County – are already concerned about where to get more water for neighborhoods teeming with new residents.
Saukville village officials say they are raising the fluoride question because of cost concerns. The village will spend about $5,300 this year on fluoride.
Village officials are also questioning whether residents want or even care about having fluoride in municipal water, given the popularity of bottled water, which normally does not have added fluoride.
For now, Saukville apparently is alone among Wisconsin municipalities thinking about halting the practice of adding fluoride to its water, said Warren LeMay, chief dental officer for the state Department of Health and Family Services.
The use of fluoride, though, is not universal in southeast Wisconsin.
Brookfield and New Berlin do not add fluoride to their municipal water.
“There is no formal policy on whether to fluoridate or not to fluoridate, although there have been discussions about fluoridation,” said Tom Grisa, Brookfield public works director.
About 10 years ago, New Berlin officials considered fluoridating the city’s well water but decided it would be too costly, said Rick Johnson, the utility manager.
“They also thought that we have enough natural fluoride in our groundwater, so that it wasn’t necessary,” Johnson said.
Two years ago, the Town of Laona in Forest County in the northeastern corner of the state stopped adding fluoride to its water because the town’s water works operator was not willing to get the additional training needed to handle fluoride.
The Milwaukee Water Works Department and the Waukesha Water Utility have no plans to stop fluoridating their water.
“We do consider fluoride a public health issue, and at this time, we have no plans to discontinue fluoride,” said Laura Daniels, the Milwaukee department’s assistant superintendent.
In Waukesha, the cost of adding fluoride to the city’s water has increased from about $10,000 in 2005 to an expected $18,000 this year, said Dan Duchniak, the water utility’s general manager.
That’s because over the last three years, several manufacturers have stopped producing fluoride, and the availability of the compound has been reduced, said Mark Looney, a spokesman for Solvay Fluorides LLC in Houston, which makes fluoride.
But Duchniak said he has no plans to ask the Waukesha Common Council to discontinue fluoridating the city’s water supply.
Fluoride use widespread
In recent years, the state has estimated that 90% of residents on public water systems, or nearly two-thirds of the state’s population, drink fluoridated water.
A Saukville dentist sees folly in talk of eliminating fluoride.
“Fluoride has made a huge difference in reducing the amount of decay,” said Carol Antisdel. She and her husband, Robert, also a dentist, have practiced in Saukville for 27 years. “We see more decay from our patients who have wells and don’t get the community water.”
Fluoride is an element that strengthens tooth enamel and makes the tooth less prone to decay, said Eugene Shoemaker, a Waukesha dentist and a Wisconsin Dental Association trustee.
Cavities, in turn, “can lead to a cascade of health issues,” he said. “It is a lot easier to prevent something that is small, such as a cavity, from getting bigger and requiring more advanced treatment for the patient,” Shoemaker said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified fluoridation of drinking water and the impact it has had preventing tooth decay as one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.
Residents’ input sought
In the Saukville newsletter that will be sent to village residents in early August, Saukville will include a flier asking residents if the village should stop fluoridating village water.
The flier will also say that possible rule changes from the U.S. Department of Transportation could significantly add to the cost of transporting and storing fluoride, said Village Administrator Dawn Wagner.
Saukville began fluoridating its water in 1964, with unanimous Village Board approval.