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City voters to decide water's fluoride content
Billy Edwards

In addition to hearing that Liberty and Bryan counties should reduce their withdrawal from the Floridan aquifer, Hinesville city leaders discussed other water-related issues last week during their annual planning workshop on St. Simons Island.

One of those issues was an update on the renovation of the wastewater-treatment plant on Fort Stewart. City Manager Billy Edwards summarized the renovations to the Courier on Monday.

“That plant was made operational back in the 1984-85 timeframe,” Edwards said. “It’s seen its better days with regard to wear and age of equipment. Renovation needs to be done — period.

“In addition to that, we’re under a new permit, which regulates the discharge after it’s been treated. The new permit requires it to be treated to a much higher level than the old permit did. The existing system — even when it was new — would not be able to meet the discharge parameters under the new permit, in regard to ammonia removal, things of that nature.”

Some components of the plant will be demolished, while others will be used for different functions.

Edwards said that Hinesville is leasing additional property next to the existing plant, so the city can build new components that will become what he called “the backbone” of the new plant.

City Engineer Paul Simonton told the city council that construction of the new plant is slated to begin in November, with completion scheduled for January 2017.

Another water issue proposed during the workshop was to stop adding fluoride to the city’s drinking water.

Edwards said the city’s drinking water already contains a naturally occurring level of fluoride that’s near the level it’s treated for. In the 1980s, there was a push to add fluoride to drinking water because of its ability to prevent tooth decay. Now, he said, fluoride is added to toothpaste — which, Edwards pointed out, consumers are warned not to swallow.

He said there is a large segment of society that’s opposed to adding fluoride to water due to the health risk. Also, the city would save $15,000-$20,000 a year by not adding fluoride. City leaders agreed to have residents to vote to keep or stop adding fluoride.

Still another water-related issue Edwards brought to city leaders’ attention was the results of an investigation into possible water-pressure problems in multi-level apartment complexes going up in the city.

“We’ve learned through development that’s occurring that people are more interested in building two- and three-story buildings,” he said. “But there are some water-pressure issues in regard to the second and third floors. As a result of that, we’re trying to create a climate in which we’re more of a development-friendly community.”

Edwards said the city leaders authorized him and city engineers to look at ways to reduce the cost of developing, noting that developers have to install booster pumps at each of their multi-level complexes. The city’s options include installing booster pumps as part of the water system or raising the city’s water tanks.

In all, they are investigating all options to determine if it’s something the city wants to pursue, he said.

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