Following a report that the town’s fluoride levels were below state levels, plans are in place to update the system by Fall 2020.
Since 2011, fluoride injection systems at the Kelley Boulevard treatment facility and the Hillman and the Adamsdale wells have been shut down due to damage caused by the chemical. Speaking at the Board of Health meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 19, Department of Public Works Director Mark Hollowell said that preliminary design work has been approved at the Kelley Boulevard treatment facility and the Adamsdale wells. A current set of plans for both is available, making the needed repair work easier to complete.
Hollowell said the Kelley Boulevard facility work would take the least time to complete, with Adamsdale not far behind. The Hillman well is expected to take the longest.
Work on the Kelley Boulevard facility is expected to cost $100,000-$150,000, while the Adamsdale and Hillman wells have been estimated at $250,000. This will be paid for through the Water Enterprise Fund and the work should be done by next October or November.
“It shouldn’t have happened,” said Hollowell, referring to the shutdown of the fluoride injection systems in 2011.
The town’s fluoride injection systems were installed in 2000 to add sodium fluoride to the town’s water system, following a vote at a Presidential Town Election that year. Similar systems are used in more than 150 towns in Massachusetts.
The injectors were installed at the Whiting Street and Kelley Boulevard treatment facilities and the Hillman and the Adamsdale wells. The systems work by adding sodium fluoride in flake form, where it is mixed and then introduced into the town’s water. However, the sodium component is acidic and began to damage the pumps. The treatment plant on Whiting Street is the only one not effected, as that is newer. There was also a problem with dust being created during the injection process that was a safety hazard for those not wearing protective masks.
As a result of these issues, the system was shut down in 2011, and has been offline since. While some of the town continues to get some amount of fluoride in their water, it is below the 0.7 mg/l optimal level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.
Hollowell added that while testing can be done for when fluoride levels are too high, it’s not a common test for lower levels. He plans monthly water tests to ensure the levels remain consistent.
Since news of the system shutdown was made public, many have questioned the delay in getting repair work done. Hollowell said that at the time, the DPW was dealing with a number of issues, including the hiring of a new Highway Superintendent. Board of Health member Jonathan Maslen said that what has happened has happened and the focus needs to be on resolving the problem.
“We have full confidence that the director and the board [of public works] will handle this,” he said. “We’re behind you guys. It’s real easy to Monday morning quarterback.”
Board of Public Works Chairman Michael Thompson said that fluoride pills will be made available to those that need them.
“Whatever we need to do to help everybody, we’re willing to do that,” he said.
Board of Health Chairman John Donohue Jr. said that the board is behind the idea of keeping fluoride in the water and doesn’t want to revisit this as a ballot question. One of the reasons he was elected in 2007 was because two members of the Health Board were suing the BPW for putting fluoride in the water.
“I did not like the idea of one board suing another,” he said. “It’s a waste of taxpayers money and counterproductive.
Donohue said that he is a firm believer in following the will of the people and that it would be unfortunate if the town decided to go a different road.
“They spoke loud and clear that day,” he said.