Bull Run drinking water would get fluoridated at Gresham treatment plant if voters approve it
BY MERILEE D. KARR
During debates, whether or not
Drinking water, the Portland Water Bureau’s Lusted Hill treatment plant in Gresham hums along with it, shaded by Douglas fir and alder. Fluoridation will take place here if voters approve it
Know how and why other chemicals are added on
Plant helps clarify fluoridation issues.
Portland’s passionate attachment to its water began in 1895 when the city first drew it from Bull Run Lake on Mount Hood and advertised the clean mountain waters as good wine.
Water that didn’t make people sick was rare until chlorination was invented to disinfect it. But Bull Run water didn’t need it. Until 1927, Portland and Spokane were the only US cities that did not chlorinate.
Chlorine never sparked the claim that fluoride has. In 1931, when someone asked the Portland Water Bureau’s chief engineer about chlorine, he told The Oregonian, “We’ve been putting chlorine in water for years.” Records show that chlorine was first added in 1928 without fanfare or voter input.
At Bull Run Lake, chlorine was mixed in where the pipe started. With it came a dose of ammonia that was bound to chlorine and prevented it from evaporating.
However, better disinfection was required. Chlorine is a more powerful microbe killer before ammonia binds to it. So, Lusted Hill was built downstream to have more time between chlorine and ammonia.
The Lusted Hill ammonia room has two 7,000-gallon tanks the size of small houses. Six wall monitors – one active and one backup for each of Bull Run’s three pipelines – control the ammonia to water ratio, just 0.4 ppm.
According to Andrew Degner, head of the water treatment plant at Lusted Hill, instruments for drinking water additives cannot get stuck in the “on” position.
In the next room in Lusted Hill, which also has two huge tanks with gauges and controls, sodium hydroxide is added to make the water less acidic. Bull Run water is acidic enough to leach lead out of pipes. In order to reduce harmful lead levels in children, the Environmental Protection Agency asked water suppliers nationwide to alkalize water in 1994.
If the voters pass
At Lusted Hill, a fluoridation room becomes part of the process. Two huge tanks hold liquid fluoride and control rows adjust the amount.
“Fluoride won’t be more difficult to handle than what we’re already handling,” says David Peters, chief engineer at the water bureau.
It may surprise you that Portland’s water supplies sometimes contain fluoride.
Bull Run water contains little or nothing. But 25 wells near the Columbia River do. They are tapped to meet the high demand for water in the summer and when Bull Run is not available e.g. B. during maintenance. The well water contains 0.16 ppm fluoride, about one fifth of the 0.7 ppm recommended by the U.S. Department of Health.
Wells draw water from mineral-rich aquifers, explains Ben Perkins, professor of geology at the
. Minerals dissolve from the rocks that contain the aquifer over many years. Lakes and rivers contain fewer minerals.
Perkins, a hydrogeologist, is collecting data on minerals in water across Oregon. The underground water sources in northwest Oregon contain 0.1 to 0.3 ppm fluoride, he says.
Beaverton, Hillsboro, Salem, Corvallis, McMinnville, and Coos Bay are some of the cities in Oregon that add fluoride. On the other side of the Columbia River also Vancouver.
t, the second largest water company in Oregon after Portland, serves parts of Tigard, Portland, Beaverton, Hillsboro and Washington Counties without legal personality. The district has been fluoridated since 1964. If Portland opted for fluoridation, it would use liquid fluorosilicic acid, as did Salem, which has been flourishing for 60 years. It comes from the mineral apatite, mainly calcium and phosphate, with three percent fluoride. When apatite is dissolved in sulfuric acid, it releases fluoride as a gas, which is trapped with silica and water.
The main product of apatite is phosphate fertilizer, which supports root growth. A fertilizer bag usually lists N (nitrogen), P (phosphate), and K (potassium).
Fluorosilicic acid is a by-product created by processes that primarily produce something else.
“We use by-products every day,” says Corby G. Anderson of the Colorado School of Mines. “From a process standpoint, it’s just another product that you make,” he says.
In much of the country, fluoride is not a problem as it occurs naturally in underground aquifers that are used for water. Aquifers in the Midwest generally have moderate levels of fluoride, enough to help teeth resist cavities, but not enough to stain them, a sign of too much fluoride. Granite aquifers in Colorado can be high in fluoride. In Colorado Springs, for example, discolored but cavity-resistant teeth led to the discovery of the effects of fluoride.
In the Rift Valley of Africa and parts of China and India, underground water is naturally extremely high in fluoride, 20 to 30 ppm, versus 0.7 ppm that Portland would use. The chronic ingestion of so much fluoride by people with malnutrition leads to a debilitating disease called skeletal fluorosis. In developed countries with better nutrition and better resources to find healthy water, this disease is essentially non-existent.
The three chemicals added to Bull Run water at the Lusted Hill plant keep it clean, safe, and healthy to drink. On May 21st, Portland voters will decide whether to add a fourth, Flouride.
Other cities in Oregon signed up for fluoridation years ago. The upcoming debate will determine whether Portland will join them.
– Merilee D. Karr