Dunedin may drop fluoride to cut costs
DUNEDIN - Twenty years after the city controversially added fluoride to drinking water, budget planners are studying whether it makes sense to eliminate the additive as a way to cut costs.
If the city doesn't put fluoride in the water anymore, it can save the $13,000 annual expense for the fluoride and also avoid spending $40,000 to replace the city's aging fluoride storage tank.
"If we're going to do it, since it's a 20-year life span on the tank, this would be a good year to do it," said Paul Stanek, assistant utilities director.
The recommendation is one of several under discussion by planners who asked all city department heads to submit cost-cutting ideas as they prepare next year's budget.
The City Commission will formally adopt next year's budget after public hearings in September. The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
If the past is any indicator, it won't be easy for commissioners to decide what to do about the fluoride.
In 1992, Dunedin became the second Pinellas County city to fluoridate its water, adding fuel to a debate that has raged in this region for more than five decades.
Supporters, including the American Dental Association, champion fluoride as an integral weapon in the battle against tooth decay, regardless of socioeconomic status. An ADA spokesman called elimination of water fluoridation for budget reasons "shortsighted."
Critics, including the region's Citizens for Safe Water advocacy group, counter that ingesting fluoride has been linked to health problems. That includes a condition called fluorosis, in which tooth enamel is damaged by high levels of fluoride.
Read more on both stances here.
For his part, Stanek said the controversy surrounding fluoride played no part in the water department's budget proposal.
"We're just looking at it from the financial end of things," he said. "Ultimately, it'll be up the commission to decide."
What do you think about Dunedin's budget proposal? What are your thoughts on fluoride in drinking water?