CORNWALL, Ontario – A two-year debate on what to do about fluoridating Cornwall’s drinking water could finally come to a head next month.
City administrators are expected to file a report at city hall Oct. 13 that will outline the ramifications of re-introducing the fluoridation process to our water – or keeping additive out.
Two years ago the fluoridation of our water was discontinued after technical problems at the treatment plant occurred, followed by health and safety concerns.
While medical professionals have long suggested the benefits of water fluoridation, especially in terms of dental care, the decision for councillors could boil down to money.
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.
“To put it back there would be some substantial costs,” said city infrastructure manager John St. Marseille Thursday. “There is still an outstanding report to bring back to council…to allow for some public discourse on how to proceed.”
Critics have argued the risks of using chemicals to treat the water present too many worries for workers, while also creating a danger for those who consume it.
So-called “hydrofluorosilicic acid” is used to create fluoride in the water, and municipal officials, in past city reports, consider it dangerous.
“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.”
In September, 2013 a “dosage feed pump” failed at the water treatment plant. The pump adds the necessary chemicals to create fluoride for our drinking water.
There were also leaks of the chemicals when the pump failed.
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.