Culver council debates fluoride in drinking water

Staff Writer

Does Culver's drinking water need fluoride as an additive? That question, among others, was debated at the March 24 meeting of Culver's town council.

Some framed the matter in terms of the greater cost: the tendency of the chemical to wreak havoc on town water plant equipment, or the price of reduced dental health for area children.

The issue was raised by design engineer Mark Sullivan, currently planning the town's new water treatment facility, slated for construction later this year.

Noting the town has not provided fluoride in its drinking water for the past eight to ten months due to an equipment problem, Sullivan also said addition of the chemical is not required by law, though it's a practice that's been in place here for years. He alluded to national debates over the effectiveness -- and in some circles, even the safety -- of using fluoride in drinking water, and he added that fluoride is "very corrosive" and has been something town utilities manager Bob Porter "had had to fight at the water plant."

Porter himself pointed out the project is only in the design phase, so now is the time to make the decision regarding fluoridation equipment. Besides the initial outlay of the equipment, he indicated fluoride addition costs around $200 to $300 per month.

"But the problem," he reiterated, "is the corrosiveness of it."

Audience member Tom Yuhas, a retired dentist, said that fluoride "is not bad for you," particularly when applied in the right dosage. Its usefulness, he explained, was discovered in other states some years ago, where high levels of fluoride occurring naturally in well water were hardening teeth, but leaving them discolored. Lower levels, he said, are effective in strengthening teeth but don't cause discoloration.

He also emphasized that topical fluoride treatments applied by dentists to patients are insufficient.

"The big benefit comes not just from the dentist...what's taken in through water is systemic -- it gets into your entire system -- so it's incorporated into your developing teeth even in an infant . I would be for keeping the fluoride in the water."

Porter said Culver's well water has been tested and .04 parts per million of fluoride naturally occur, less than the 1 part per million recommended by the American Dental Association according to Yuhas.

Council member Sally Ricciardi noted some nearby towns, such as Argos, have stopped adding the chemical to their drinking water. She expressed her opposition to because of its corrosiveness.

Audience member Bill Cleavenger noted the proliferation of lower-income children in the Culver school district who may not otherwise received adequate dental care, and suggested taxpayers might "be paying collectively as citizens a lot more (than the cost of the plant equipment)."

Asked about replacing fluoridation equipment, Porter said a rebuild kit would likely be needed annually, with a replacement pump every five years.

Council member Ed Pinder suggested, in the absence of council members Ginny Munroe and Dave Beggs at the meeting, that the matter should wait until the full council could be present, before a formal vote. Ricciardi suggested Sullivan leave the equipment in the design with the possibility of its removal at a later meeting.

The council agreed to a special meeting April 30 to open bids for the project due to requirements of its deadline.

Complete coverage of the meeting appears in the April 2 print edition of The Culver Citizen, on the stands now (or pick up your e-edition here: