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Shiloh Water to end fluoridation Aug. 31 after DEP approval

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch
Lee Woodmansee, of Shiloh Water Authority, speaks during a special meeting held by the board of supervisors  at the West Manchester Township Municipal Building in West Manchester Township, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. The authority submitted an application the Department of Environmental Protection in November requesting permission to discontinue adding fluoride to water. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Shiloh Water Authority will be removing fluoride from its water in West Manchester Township after receiving approval June 15 from the state Department of Environmental Protection, authority officials said.

Fluoridation will cease in the authority's water on Aug. 31, officials announced Wednesday night.

"The general feeling was that there is enough fluoride available nowadays," said water authority manager John Horvatinovic. "I thought they made the right decision."

Customers will be notified 30 days before fluoride is removed, said Jim Bentzel, the water authority board's chairperson.

Shiloh Water Authority serves more than 9,000 residents in West Manchester Township.

More:Shiloh Water Authority to reconsider fluoride removal plan

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After reconsidering the push for removal in January, the water authority's board voted 3-1 in May to continue pursing the removal of fluoride.

Board member Rick Steinfeld voted against removal.

An ongoing debate between residents and officials citing reasons both for and against fluoridation has continued for months. 

A public hearing in February had people from both sides weighing in, including residents, dentists and activists. 

"There is a crisis with cavities, and dental decay is an epidemic," said York City-based dentist Joe Mountain in the meeting. "Fluoride in water is one of the few tools we have. It is very safe. The history is there; the evidence is there."

Shiloh Water System in West Manchester Township, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called fluoridation of water systems one of the most successful public health initiatives in the country's history. Fluoride has been shown to prevent cavities and have an overall positive effect on dental health. 

Several of Shiloh Water Authority's board members have been outspoken about their reasons for removing fluoride, including member Lee Woodmansee, who said chemicals don't belong in the water.

"We should not be putting chemicals in the water," Woodmansee said. "Why should we add anything that we don't have to?" 

West Manchester Township Manager Kelly Kelch said the township has no plans to file a lawsuit or seek an injunction, though officials in the past have spoken out about their opposition.

"Even though the board disagrees with the decision, they do understand that there are counter arguments that can be made," Kelch said via email. "The main objection was to the lack of research, public involvement and the process that the authority went through to reach their decision."

Kelch added that water authority officials sought public opinion and a "thorough" investigation only after prompting by the township's Board of Supervisors. 

"Not only considering the health reasons but mainly due to the lack of research and to inconsistencies and lack of transparency in the procedural process, the board objected to the removal," Kelch said.

John Repetz, a spokesperson for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said since fluoride is not a required treatment in water, the department is neutral on the addition or removal of the substance.

"Seeing that the department does not require fluoride treatment and that (Shiloh Water Authority) gave adequate notice to the public... the permit was issued allowing them to cease fluoride addition and remove the associated equipment," Repetz said.

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.