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Valpo fluoride commission tours Flint Lake water treatment plant

Members Valparaiso Fluoride CommissiValparaiso City Utilities take tour Flint Lake Treatment Plant Wednesday June 4 2014. The city is deciding

Members of the Valparaiso Fluoride Commission and Valparaiso City Utilities take a tour of the Flint Lake Treatment Plant on Wednesday, June 4, 2014. The city is deciding whether to discontinue the use of fluoride in its water supply. | Michael Gard/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 6, 2014 6:29AM



VALPARAISO — A form of fluoride is one of three chemicals used to process the city’s drinking water before sending it to residents, and it, chlorine and phosphate are kept in separate rooms at the water treatment plants to avoid cross-contamination.

Members of the Valparaiso City Utilities Fluoride Commission saw this Wednesday as they toured the Flint Lake water treatment plant, collecting data to produce a report by Sept. 30 on whether Valparaiso should continue fluoridating its water.

“Valparaiso was one of those pioneers fluoridating their water,” said Shihua Chen, the city’s water operations manager and laboratory director.

Fluoridation began in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1945 and came to Indiana at South Bend, Huntington and Indianapolis in 1951, with Valparaiso starting in 1952.

Now, a computer system adjusts for water flow and puts 0.3 gallons of hydrofluorosilicic acid — the fluoride compound Valparaiso uses — into every 120,000 gallons of water.

Fluoridation is a closed process where a truck fills a main tank, then a smaller tank is filled for daily use and a pump slowly adds the chemical.

A chlorine bleach is now used twice in the process, before filtering to kill pathogens and remove metals and after filtering to kill remaining pathogens. Phosphate is added to coat pipes, slowing corrosion and lining lead pipes inside homes and businesses.

In 2011, the federal standard for fluoridation decreased from 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water to just 0.7 milligrams per liter.

Chen said the higher range was for northern states where people drank less water, but with fluoride more readily available that range became unnecessary and could present a health risk from having too much fluoride.

Indiana hasn’t adopted the lower federal standard yet, but Valparaiso’s fluoridation is at the new level.

Retired Valparaiso Utilities Director John Hardwick noted at the end of the tour that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had a list of the Top 10 improvements to public health, and chlorination and fluoridation of water were both in it.



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