Opt-Out Bill Likely Wouldn’t Change Fluoride Addition In Greenwood; Fort Smith Unsure
FORT SMITH AND GREENWOOD (KFSM) – A proposed opt-out bill making its way through the state Legislature may not stop some local River Valley cities from adding fluoride to their water supply, according to city officials.
House Bill 1355 passed the Arkansas House of Representatives on Feb. 19 and now heads to the state Senate. It would allow water suppliers to opt out of a previous law that required Arkansas cities to add fluoride to their water if they supply more than 5,000 customers.
Greenwood is set to start flowing fluoride through its water in April, while Fort Smith is set to add fluoride sometime next year. The cities adopted the plans following the passage of a 2011 law requiring water plants to add the extra ingredient.
Greenwood officials are keeping an eye on the new measure as it heads through the Legislature. However, they will likely stick with the fluoride plan even if the state Legislature passes the bill allowing cities to opt out, said Steve Ratterree, chairman of the Greenwood Water Commission.
“It’s hard to say,” Ratterree said. “We’re already in the project.”
Ratterree went on to explain that the city has signed a contract with Delta Dental on the project and has already begun spending the $124,000 from the dental company’s grant that made the transition to fluoride water possible.
City administrator Ray Gosack said the future is less certain for Fort Smith.
“Right now, we’re in a wait-and-see approach with the bill,” he said.
Fort Smith is about 13 months from having fluoride flow through its water supply, Gosack said. The addition of the ingredient to Fort Smith water also comes from a Delta Dental grant, as the company gave $1.7 million to the city.
Gosack said city officials are not closing the door on any possibility, but committing one way or another is premature. He said city administrators will revisit the issue if the bill passes the Senate and is then signed into law by the governor.
At least 31 of the 34 water system affected by the law have submitted plans and funding requests to add fluoride to their water, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.
Booneville also has a plan in place to add fluoride to its water supply.
The fluoride addition law was passed four years ago following concerns over the tooth problems and cavity rates of communities that do not add fluoride to their water supply.
The bill to opt out of that plan passed the state House 60 to 34. It was introduced Feb. 10 by Rep. Jack Ladyman, R-Jonesboro.