Fluoridation: It’s up to the voters

Mon, 01/31/2022 - 3:15pm

Recently a letter was published in the Boothbay Register advocating the removal of current fluoride levels in the Boothbay region’s public drinking water supply. The Boothbay Region Water District’s (BRWD) position concerning fluoridation is “neither for, nor against,” believing fluoridation of the public drinking water supply is a question that should be determined directly by the residents of Boothbay, Boothbay Harbor and Southport. The purpose of this piece is to describe the facts of why, how and with what the Boothbay Region Water District maintains fluoride in the public water supply currently.

In the early 2000s a group of concerned citizens successfully put the question of public fluoridation to the voters of the region, who ultimately approved the measure, ordering the BRWD to maintain a level of fluoride in its drinking water as specified by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Disease Control. Environmental testing of the region’s water sources, Adams Pond and Knickerbocker Lake, have never shown detectable levels of naturally occurring fluoride, requiring additional fluoride to the drinking water be added at the Adams Pond Treatment Plant.

Maine mandates that any public water system adding fluoride to its drinking water, maintain a level of 0.5 parts per million (ppm) to 1.2 ppm with a target goal 0.7 ppm. For nearly twenty-years the BRWD has complied successfully with these Maine regulations.

To achieve a legal and consistent level of fluoride in the drinking water supply, the BRWD uses sodium fluoride, which is commonly derived as a by-product in the manufacture of phosphate fertilizer. In its pure state sodium fluoride, an odorless, white crystalline powder, is a very toxic chemical, requiring, specific training for handling, special personal protective gear, and tight, secure control of pure chemical in storage.

The sodium fluoride used at the BRWD is currently imported from either China or Japan. At present, there are no North American sources for this chemical. Sodium fluoride for addition to drinking water, by law, is certified by the National Science Foundation (NSF) which means it meets a level of purity measured by a third-party organization that independently tests a wide range of products to uphold quality and safety standards. All chemicals, including sodium fluoride, used by the BRWD are NSF certified for purity.  

Because sodium fluoride dissolves in water at a known rate, the BRWD uses an “up-flow saturator” wherein pure sodium fluoride is bathed in process water, dissolving at a known rate, forming approximately a 6% solution, of which the supernatant, or the dissolved sodium fluoride/water mixture, is metered into the drinking water to achieve the target 0.7 ppm concentration. The Adams Pond Treatment Plant has systems in place to continually monitor the level of fluoride in the drinking water and redundant safety systems to prevent an overconcentration of fluoride to occur.

The district would be more than happy to show any interested parties the fluoridation process used by the BRWD. If interested, one needs only to call 207-633-4723, ext. 112 to schedule a tour.