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FLUORIDE: Council will decide whether to keep it in Cornwall water

Published on September 5, 2014
Drinking water

CORNWALL, Ontario - City council will decide soon, perhaps once and for all, about the fluoridation of the Cornwall water system.

Councillors will get a sneak peak at a report from the city's environmental services department Monday night, which details a process to augment the safety policies and equipment at Cornwall's treatment plant where dangerous chemicals are added to fluoridate drinking water.

The report will be discussed in full Sept. 22.

Critics have argued the risks of using chemicals to treat the water present too many risks to workers, while also creating a danger for those who consume it.

But medical professionals have long suggested the benefits of water fluoridation, especially in terms of dental care, far outweigh other concerns.

The decision for councillors could boil down to money, as it is expected to cost as much as $300,000 to upgrade the water treatment plant, as well as an extra $50,000 a year in operational expenses.

There are also concerns for municipal workers that handle the so-called "hydrofluorosilicic acid" that is used to create fluoride in the water.

"There are significant health and safety risks associated with handling this product," said environmental services manager Morris McCormick in a report to council. "Hydrofluorosilicic acid vapours react with moisture in the air to produce a very corrosive environment that can cause severe skin and eye burns. Contact with liquid hydrofluorosilicic acid can also cause severe burns.

"Of particular concern is the effects of contact with this product may be delayed. Damage can occur without initial onset of pain. Treatment may be too late to prevent damage."

Cornwall has gone months without fluoride in drinking water because of worker safety concerns at the treatment plant.

In June Cornwall municipal works manager John St. Marseille said a so-called "dosage feed pump" failed. The pump adds the necessary chemicals to create fluoride for our drinking water.

There were also leaks of the chemicals when the pump failed.

St. Marseille said the city retained some experts who made a slew of health and safety recommendations concerning the storage area where the chemicals are kept, including improved breathing apparatuses, ventilation and practices should a spill occur.

He was asked why the city didn't have such policies in place already.

"The standards change and we need to make sure we meet the new standards," he said. "They get reviewed all the time."

St. Marseille said until the new policy measures are in place, the city drinking water will remain fluoride free.