By Jane Smith
Ocean Ridge, Briny Breezes and county pocket residents will soon have drinking water without added fluoride.
Their water supplier, Boynton Beach Utilities, took one of its two fluoride tanks offline at the end of January and the other will go offline soon when it runs out of fluoride. The purpose is to make way for the reconstruction of that treatment plant.
The west fluoride tank was leaking, said Colin Groff, the city’s director of utilities. To prevent further corrosion, it was turned off. His department is redesigning that treatment system to avoid a costly repair. The redesign will take another three to six months and will cost about $25,000, he said.
The utility moved up its $30 million upgrade to its water treatment plant on the east side of town. That tank would run out of fluoride in another week or two, Groff said at the end of March. It would be another three to six months before it was back online.
The water from the treatment plants is mixed, so customers earlier this year were receiving water with reduced levels of fluoride.
Boynton Beach water has about 0.2 parts per million of naturally occurring fluoride. The city adds about 0.5 parts per million to comply with federal drinking water standards that recommend levels between 0.7 and 1.2 parts per million.
Adding fluoride is not required, but it is controversial. Those opposed say it causes brittle bones. Supporters, such as Palm Beach County’s Health Department, say it prevents tooth decay.
“It’s one of the greatest public health achievements,” said Tim O’Connor, county health department spokesman. “It does not discriminate. Even if you are poor, you can still get it.”
In the county, about 777,515 residents have fluoridated water, which works out to be slightly over 60 percent. According to the Florida Department of Health, Boca Raton, Highland Beach, Lantana and Manalapan do not add fluoride to their drinking water.
Because adding the fluoride is not a requirement, Boynton Beach did not have to notify its water customers. It did notify the Environmental Health division of the county Health Department. Groff points out that bottled water does not contain fluoride.