Fluoride to be discontinued in city water supply starting in May | News, Sports, Jobs

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Large bags of fluoride sit in storage at the Alpena water production plant. The city has enough stock of the additive to get through the fall, but the Alpena Municipal Council is weighing what to do after the current inventory is exhausted.

ALPENA — The Alpena Municipal Council on Monday, by a vote of 5-0, decided to discontinue adding fluoride to Alpena’s water supply beginning May 1.

The Council, which delayed a vote on the matter several times, decided the move would prevent it from making the choice of what residents can and can’t put into their own bodies.

Mayor Matt Waligora said all the council members researched the issue painstakingly, and still, he felt he wasn’t qualified to make the decision. He said perhaps people in Alpena can place the matter on an upcoming ballot during an election.

In the end, Waligora said he based his vote on what the federal government requires municipalities to do with water production.

“I’m not a chemist, I’m not a doctor, and I’m not a scientist,” he said. “We are required by the government to provide safe and clean drinking water, so I will be on the side of eliminating the fluoride.”

Had the Council voted in favor of continuing to add fluoride, it would have had three options.

In a report earlier this year, City Engineer Steve Shultz said the city had enough of the chemical to last through April, and then Alpena could continue to order the powdered fluoride additive it currently uses, but future supplies were in question due to rising costs and availability of the additive.

The second option would have been to use liquid fluoride. Converting to the liquid form, however, would mean the city would have had to invest about $100,000 to renovate Alpena’s water treatment plant to accommodate it.

Shultz said it would cost the city $20,000 a year for the liquid chemical.

Using the liquid chemical could also expose employees to health risks, according to officials.

The final option was to discontinue the use of fluorinated products altogether. That was an option because the state does not require fluoride to be added to drinking water.

Last year, Veolia Utility Manager Mike Glowinski said only about 10% of the water produced is consumed by people and the balance is used for cooking, cleaning, on lawns, and other household needs. He said because such a small amount is consumed, most of the fluoride in the treatment plant is wasted when water is used for other things.

Mayor Pro Tem Cindy Johnson said Monday she didn’t feel comfortable forcing people to consume something they don’t want in their body. She said with today’s advancement in dentistry and treatments, people can still care for their teeth while not adding unwanted things into the water system.

“There are ways to get fluoride without adding it to our water,” she said.

By law, the city must inform the public of the move no more than 10 days before the date of the chemical’s removal.

The city intends to issue a letter with more information for residents.

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