VERNON TOWNSHIP — One northwestern Pennsylvania city’s loss of fluoride is another’s gain.
Meadville Area Water Authority board members approved the purchase of two fluoride analyzers and fluoride reagent from the city of Franklin’s General Authority at the monthly meeting Wednesday.
“We need to purchase these as part of our fluoride system,” Project Manager Bob Harrington told the board and audience members at the meeting. “Franklin has some that they’re not using.”
MAWA will pay $10,000 for the two analyzers that monitor fluoride levels and chemicals that will be used to fluoridate the water provided to the authority’s customers. The analyzers alone typically cost about $7,500 each, Harrington said.
In addition, consulting engineer Matt Buzza added, the devices are “new in the box” since Franklin purchased but never used them.
The 3-0 vote came before a small audience that included two people who had spoken to the board regarding their concerns about the safety of fluoridation less than 10 minutes earlier. Board members Mark Gildea and Hal Tubbs were absent from the meeting.
Cindy Conjalko presented the board with a petition she said was signed by 600 people.
“They are all dead set against this fluoride being put in the water,” she said, pointing concerns about safety for seniors, children, restaurants using fluoridated water, people sensitive to the presence of fluoride and others. “A lot of people said, ‘Why didn’t we get to vote for this?’ I said, ‘I don’t know. They didn’t send out notices in the mail so you could say yes, you want fluoride or no, you don’t, and your reason for it.’”
The board’s approval of fluoridation by a 3-2 vote in June 2017 came several weeks after a contentious public information session with presentations by experts both for and against as well as an extensive public comment session. The special voting meeting on fluoridation also included another 30 minutes of public comment on the issue that featured several community members expressing concerns similar to the ones raised at Wednesday’s meeting.
Despite such concerns, work on the fluoridation system continues moving forward. In addition to the board’s approval of the analyzers purchase, Buzza announced that a preconstruction meeting had been scheduled in the coming weeks with Konzel Construction of Erie.
The authority’s bargain deal with the Franklin General Authority on fluoride analyzers comes in the wake of Franklin’s decision to discontinue fluoridation in June — a decision that itself came shortly after a February malfunction caused a spike in Franklin fluoride levels that exceeded the state maximum of 2 milligrams per liter. For the prevention of tooth decay, the Centers for Disease Control recommends fluoride levels of 0.7 parts per million.
In a press release issued at the time, officials did not specify what level of contamination the fluoride reached or how many people were affected, but they advised that children younger than 9 years old be provided alternative sources of drinking water until they are notified.
The incident lasted nearly a month and soon led to the Franklin General Authority decision to cease fluoridation — but not before the authority purchased the two online analyzers that have now been purchased by MAWA. The authority’s board members cited what they described as a narrow benefit to children between 4 and 11 years old and increasingly onerous safety regulations, according to reporting in September by The Derrick of Oil City.
Fluoridation safety has also drawn attention recently from the international scientific community. Two studies published this month from research teams led by Christine Till, a psychology professor at York University in Toronto, Canada, have drawn attention to fluoridation.
The first found that adults with iodine deficiencies who are exposed to higher levels of fluoride may be at an increased risk for underactive thyroids.
Another study found that pregnant women living in Canadian cities with fluoridated water tend to have levels or urinary fluoride twice as high as women in cities without fluoridated water.
Levels of urinary fluoride are a concern, Till said, because a previous study in Mexico City had associated prenatal exposure to fluoride with lower IQ in children. Fluoride is added to table salt in Mexico City.
Still another just published study suggests a potential connection between higher levels of fluoride exposure during pregnancy and ADHD-like symptoms in children.
Mike Crowley can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.