Alma Public Works will begin fluoridating the city’s drinking water on Wednesday, June 15, affecting Alma, Kibler, Dyer and Redhill.
Hexafluorosilicic acid, commonly used for water fluoridation, will be added to Alma’s finished water prior to distribution, said Alma Public Works Director Mark Yardley.
While fluoride is naturally occurring in nearly every water source in the world, the City of Alma will be adding enough fluoride to bring the level to .7 parts per million.
"One of the arguments of those opposed to fluoridation is we have no real assurance of what inert chemicals are in the fluoride and if they are safe for drinking water," Yardley said. "The government has said the level of contaminants is safe, so we’re going by that."
By fluoridating the drinking water, city officials are acting in accordance with Act 197, a 2011 state mandate that requires all source water systems that produce and treat water and serve populations larger than 5,000 to fluoridate their water.
State regulations call for a fluoride level between .7 and 1.2 parts per million. The Safe Drinking Water Act requires fluoride levels to remain under 4 parts per million.
Legislators’ main purpose in mandating the fluoridation is to prevent tooth decay in children, according to the act.
There are many opponents to fluoridation, but little evidence showing it to be harmful, Yardley said.
"History has proven it’s relatively safe. I don’t think anyone has ever been poisoned by fluoride in the water system," Yardley said.
There have been instances of fluoride poisoning, but almost always in naturally occurring sources of water, Yardley said. Fluoride poisoning can cause a long list of ailments such as brittle bones, respiratory failure and vision problems.
Yardley added that he doesn’t think the fluoride contains significant levels of anything that would be harmful.
Alma dentist Dr. Jeremy Simon plans to cease providing fluoridation treatments to his customers once the city begins water treatments in order to prevent over fluoridation, he said.
Construction on Alma’s fluoridation system, which was installed inside the city’s treatment plant, began in January 2015. Costs for construction total $304,907.32 and were paid for with a grant from the Delta Dental of Arkansas Foundation.
Additional costs for the chemical and maintenance of the system will fall to the city, Yardley said.
Alma will purchase it’s fluoride from Water Tech in Fort Smith for less than $2,000 a year. As a byproduct of fertilizer production, the chemical is fairly inexpensive, Yardley said.
Maintenance costs are as yet unsure, but Yardley said replacing a fluoride injection pump could cost up to $6,000.
"Obviously, the cost for replacement pumps is the primary concern," Yardley said. "Because the fluoride itself is so corrosive, the equipment is not expected to last as long in that process as it might in other processes."
Fort Smith began fluoridating its Lee Creek and Lake Fort Smith Water Treatment Plants on March 7. Fort Smith supplies water to Van Buren and other cities in the surrounding area.
For more information on fluoridation of drinking water, visit the American Dental Association website, the Arkansas Department of Health and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists.
Those with infants being fed formula should visit the Centers for Disease Control at http://www.cdc.gov/fluoridation/safety/infant_formula.htm for information on using fluoridated water.