The West Branch City Council voted 6-1 at its June 1 meeting to bring the city’s water fluoridation levels up to 0.7 parts per million to meet the state and federal recommendations.
Councilman Dave Lucas cast the lone no vote.
State and federal recommendations call for total fluoride levels to be at 0.7 parts per million including naturally occurring levels, which in West Branch are around 0.1-0.2 ppm.
In February, the level of fluoride in the city’s water was around 0.4 ppm, but Department of Public Works Superintendent Dennis Jameson said he has been increasing fluoridation levels over the past few months. He said recent tests, which are taken daily at the pump house and weekly throughout the distribution system, have shown fluoridation levels have been averaging 0.7 ppm.
Tests last week revealed the water at the pump house and at city hall had a fluoridation level of 0.7 ppm, while the water at the Michigan State Police post was at 0.6 ppm, Jameson said. The average throughout the distribution system for the month of May was 0.53 ppm.
City Manager Heather Grace said previously that it would cost the city approximately $300 more a year to add the increased amount of fluoride to the water. Currently it costs the city $2,800 for the fluoride and testing equipment annually.
Grace said a survey was sent out with last quarter’s water billings asking residents what levels of fluoride they would like to see in their water. She said more than 50 surveys were completed and returned.
“The majority of individuals who completed the surveys indicated that they were OK with the current levels,” she said. “The next highest answer was they felt that more should be added. The next highest answer after that was they were against having fluoride altogether. Almost as many as were against it said they were unsure.”
During public comment, Christine Farrell, oral health program director for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said fluoridation is the most cost effective way to curb tooth decay throughout communities. She said throughout the state more than 90 percent of those who get their water from community water systems have access to fluoridated water.
“Community water fluoridation is not the only thing to make a difference, but it’s one thing we can do as a city,” Elisa Dack said. “It’s one of the top ten greatest public health achievements that we’ve done as a nation, and it’s been going on for 70 years.”
She said the increase in fluoride would decrease the amount of pain children experience because of tooth decay as well as the time they and their parents miss from school and work when tending to the issue.
David Hunter of West Branch, who is also a member of the West Branch Kiwanis Club, said the organization is in favor of increasing the fluoride level in the city’s water.
“I grew up without any fluoride,” he said. “I’m spending thousands of dollars as the doctors and the dentists do know to get my teeth in shape now so that I can at least have them for a few more years.”
“We’ve had a lot of people put time, effort, discussion and documentation (into this),” councilman Rusty Showalter said. “I think we owe it to them to make a council decision to keep the levels averaged out at 0.7.”