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Most neighbor cities fluoridate water

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Editor’s Note: This is the third part of a series regarding whether to once again add fluoride in Lebanon’s water supply. The Wilson Post on Friday will look at possible health risks versus health benefits of adding fluoride in the city’s water.

By ZACK OWENSBYThe Wilson Post

Lebanon is one of the only local water municipalities that chooses not to fluoridate their water, an issue which has created controversy over the past few months.

According to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, approximately 296 of 490 community water systems in Tennessee are fluoridated. Thirty-one systems have stopped fluoridation since 2006, Lebanon being one of those. 

The most cited reasons listed for stopping fluoridation are cost, availability and risks versus benefits decisions.

Lebanon stopped its fluoridation process in September 2007 citing difficulty in finding quality powdered sodium silicafluoride after Hurricane Katrina. The inferior quality of Chinese-manufactured fluoride caused serious malfunctions with the feed system’s equipment, according to a report written by Lebanon Commissioner of Public Works Jeff Baines and city Waterworks Superintendent J.C. York. 

If city officials decide in the future to reinstitute fluoride back into the city’s water, York, along with Baines, have recommended installing new equipment for implementing liquid fluorosilicic acid into the water supply.

Neighboring cities and utility districts such as Murfreesboro, Gladeville, Gallatin, Hendersonville and Franklin all put a fluoride additive into their water supply, most in the liquid form of fluorosilicic acid.

“The ability to fill the tanks with the least amount of human contact with the chemical makes the liquid form safer,” said Tennessee Association of Utility Districts Executive Director Bob Freudenthal. TAUD serves nearly 400 public and private community water systems.

Only Gallatin currently uses the powdered sodium silicafluoride in its water and has since 1981, according to a source there.

The powdered form is the same type used by Lebanon until 2007. The powdered chemical wreaked havoc with plant machinery, etched glass windows and prematurely corroded metal pipes and concrete walls and floors, York said.

All of the neighboring utility districts have begun using the liquid fluorosilicic acid within the past five years.

And according to other local utility districts, both forms of fluoride available to water treatment facilities can be found originating from American plants, limiting the need to use inferior overseas products.

Both TDEC and TAUD neither recommend nor oppose fluoridating water systems. They also don’t recommend one form of fluoride, powdered or liquid, over the other, according to their respective representatives.

The question to fluoridate or not to fluoridate remains solely with Lebanon city officials.

Staff Writer Zack Owensby may be contacted at zowensby@wilsonpost.com.

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