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Water Board considers fluoride issue

By Staff
Kim West
To Dr. Steven Hammack, a Russellville dentist, the issue of the possible removal of fluoride in the city water system is a question of money and morality.
Water fluoridation started in Russellville in 1963 and has continued without interruption except for a three-month period following Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 that left the city without a supply of fluoride.
According to data provided by the Alabama Department of Public Health, 80 percent of Franklin County residents received fluoridated-treated drinking water.
"I urge (the water board) to reconsider (removing fluoride), especially due to the fact that it is unavailable because we can find vendors for fluoride," said Hammack, who along with dentists Dr. Alan Sherrill, Dr. John Graves and Dr. Mark Love attended the Russellville Water and Sewer Board meeting Tuesday morning, along with pediatrician Dr. Karen Landers and University of Alabama-Birmingham associate dean Dr. John Thornton. "Fluoride lessens decay and it lessens cavities in teeth, and every $1 dollar spent on fluoride is equal to $40 in dental savings."
"We fought this battle in 1963, and it's a health issue … sometimes you just do the right thing whether you've been mandated to or not, and this is the right thing to do."
Doug Clement, manager of the Russellville Water and Sewer Board, said cost was not a determining factor in the board's decision to review its policy on water fluoridation, which costs between $25,000 and $30,000 annually.
"There is not a cost factor for the board," Clement said. "We meet all the requirements set forth by the (Environmental Protection Agency) and (Alabama Department of Environmental Management), but we're not doctors or lawyers, and we shouldn't be writing prescriptions for people."
The board followed protocol in deciding to review its fluoridation policy, according to Clement.
"We notified the state (health) department and also notified the dentists with a letter and published a public notice in the newspaper," he said. "Our next step is to make an informed decision after we get input from people."
Clement said the issue will be decided in the coming months by the five-member Water and Sewer Board, which is appointed by the mayor and council to six-year terms. The board includes board president Joe Graham, Gene Ellison, Dick Tutich, Dan Terry and Curtis Grissom.
The city water board uses between .77 and .90 parts of fluoride per million for its 5,171 customers.
Besides the four dentists in attendance, pediatrician Dr. Karen Landers, University of Alabama-Birmingham associate dean of dentistry Dr. John Thornton, Alabama Department of Public Health representative Sherry Goode, Russellville Mayor Troy Oliver, speaking on behalf of the city council, all spoke in favor of retaining fluoride in the city water system.
Speaking against fluoridation was longtime Russellville resident Opal Ross, who attends nearly every city council and board meeting.
"I've got four children, and two children were raised on fluoride, and they have rotten teeth," Ross said. "I also have two children who were raised without fluoride, and they have the prettiest teeth."
The board plans to discuss the fluoridation issue at a work session Jan. 5 at 5 p.m. at the Water Board warehouse on Underwood Rd. The next board meeting is Jan. 12 at 10 a.m.