A Chattanooga-area water utility is putting fluoride in drinking water supplies even though it doesn’t know details of contamination levels of fluoride’s chemical ingredients.
The fluoride contaminant levels pass inspection, but David Collett, general manager of North West Utility District in Soddy-Daisy, is demanding details from a distributor in Fayetteville, Tenn.
By David Tulis / AM 1240 Hot News Talk Radio
The matter of fluoride has gotten Mr. Collett’s attention as the district’s board members vote July 19 on getting rid of the controversial chemical, also called hydrofluorosilicic acid. The board is soliciting public comment at its website.
In response to an open records request, Mr. Collett provides test reports and a safety data sheet. The reports give some detail about noxious ingredients in fluoride, an industrial waste product, but not really enough to satisfy critics of fluoride.
Nor Mr. Collett.
Uneasy about the legal liability fluoride brings to the district, he is demanding details from ADC, of Fayetteville, Tenn., the distributor.
“We are looking for what the requirements are for the chemical companies to provide us as it relates to the testing reports for fluoride. We currently receive annual reports — annual batch reports — that break down the materials used in fluoride and their pass and fail rate. What we’re looking for is if there are certain requirements they need to provide us more frequently than just an annual basis.”
Mr. Collett says he would like the details about mercury and other components, not just that the test batch “passes” on each ingredient. His interest in these questions is keen in light of fluoride’s use being entirely voluntary. No state or federal law requires NWUD to buy the acid and inject it into the water.
Force of habit more than anything else keeps fluoride in the water supply. That and the endorsement of dentists, who nobly tell the board that the mass medication program by water districts slashes their business as fillers of caveties.
‘Impurities’ added to water: Arsenic, chromium
The form provided ADC by NSF International, a testing company, declares that test samples of fluoride contain arsenic, barium, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, copper, mercury, lead, selenium, and thallium. These ingredients are reported from a yearly test sample and get a grade of “pass.” How close the batch at any point gets to “fail” is not revealed.
The reports admit fluoride is a form of sanctioned pollution. The test standard is the NSF/ANSI 60 test that “establishes minimum health effects requirements for the chemicals, the chemical contaminants, and the impurities that are directly added to drinking water from drinking water treatment chemicals.”
Mr. Collett says his board would like to know the details of just how much mercury is in the fluoride. At the Soddy-Daisy plant, about 80 pounds of fluoride goes into 2 million to 3 million gallons of water treated.
Mr. Collett provides me test reports for several years, from 2009 to 2015. These show that water impurities are below “maximum contamination level” and thus allowable. Exactly how extensively individual toxins are present is not revealed.
Handle with care
NWUD runs two water treatment plants overseen by operators who object to the health dangers the chemical imposes upon them. Darrell Burchard and Steve Roark in May told board members fluoride is a scary and dangerous part of their workplace routine. The men serve 7,500 customers in Soddy-Daisy, Falling Water, Mowbray Mountain and Sale Creek.
The parent company of the manufacturer is Unimin Corp. in New Canaan Conn. Unimin’s “safety data sheet” says that hydrofluorosilicic acid is harmful if swallowed, toxic in contact with skin, harmful if inhaled and also that it causes severe skin burns. It says that no one should breathe its mist, vapors or spray. One should not eat drink or smoke near it. It is to be used only outdoors and in a well-ventilated area. Workers are supposed to wear protective clothing, a protection and face protection, says an April 2014 data sheet Mr. Collett provided.
These facts about raw fluoride not appear to have a direct bearing on fluoride when ingested in tiny quantities dissolved in water down to the 0.7 parts per million, which is the target level for the district.
Learn more about effort to purify drinking water here