Fluoride issue still creating fuss in Rifle
RIFLE – Do you or do you not want fluoride in your drinking water?That’s the question Rifle residents need to consider as city officials mull over whether or not to put the chemical back into the water system.The issue of fluoridation was brought up to council last February when the equipment used to flouridate the water at the city’s Graham Mesa water treatment plant broke down.At the time, the city concluded that it would continue with fluoridation, despite conflicting reports – both for and against. The decision was made after several contacts by local health professionals advocating fluoridation of the city’s water.In a workshop held Wednesday night with Rifle City Council members and city staff, the issue was again revisited. Reports revealed that city water has not contained fluoride in the past year and staff was seeking direction as to whether or not the city still wanted to fluoridate its water.City staff operators of the water treatment plant voiced opposition to putting fluoride in the water, citing concerns about “medicating” the public, safety hazards for the operators, the costs of equipment and monitoring the implementation of fluoride into the water system.”Fluoride is a toxin,” said Brian Ulve, senior operator at the city’s water treatment plant. “Fluoridation is mass medication. Do we want to be in the business of medical care? Fluoride is not effective by being ingested – it has to be topically applied. Ingesting it is a big hoax as far as I’m concerned.”Besides the medical aspect, concerns about fluoridation in the city’s water also involve the safety of handling the chemical by operators at the water treatment plant, equipment needed to safely dispense it and metering and analyzing how much is being put into the city’s water.The cost of replacing the equipment needed to put fluoride back into the city’s water supply is estimated at $80,000 to $100,000.”To me, it’s the health issue and mass medication that concerns me the most,” Ulve said.But some health care professionals disagree, saying that fluoridation in city water may be the only protection low-income families and children get – especially those who can’t afford regular dental care.When the issue was brought up last year, the city received numerous phone calls and a letter signed by about 15 local health care professionals, including Garfield County Public Health Nurse Mary Meisner, advocating the benefits of fluoridation in the city’s drinking water, especially for those who can’t afford regular dental care.”There is a long history of community and grassroots efforts to ensure our residents’ access to dental and oral health care services in Garfield County,” the letter said. “As is the case with so many things, our lower income neighbors are facing the biggest barriers, i.e. inability to pay for dental services and/or regular medical care. Flouridation of community water supplies is a very effective way to address the disparities created by these barriers. We can and should provide to all of our municipal residents the protection and preventive benefits of fluoridated water, regardless of income level. This is a very cost effective and rational foundation for all of our other efforts to provide adequate care.”While city council members heard the negative side of fluoridation Wednesday night, they said they wanted to hear both sides of the issue before making a decision.”It seems like we’re damned if we do and we’re damned if we don’t,” said Councilor Sandy Vaccaro. “It’s weird – there’s people at both ends of this. To me, it’s either good or it’s not.”City Manager John Hier suggested the city seek advice from the experts.”There’s no right or wrong – there’s simply different opinions about it. We may need to ask the citizens what they want, because we’re not qualified to decide. And we need to hear from the experts.”Councilor Jen Firmin suggested that instead of forcing fluoridation in the public drinking water, that unless it was deemed as a really good thing, the city not fluoridate and let citizens compensate for themselves.But whether the water is fluoridated or not, the bottom line is that Rifle’s water is still safe to drink.Council is expected to hear the issue again at a future city council meeting.Those wishing to find out more about fluoride should visit the American Dental Association Web site at http://www.ada.org/goto/fluoride.
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