Girdwood has been without fluoride in water since last year, with fix planned for 2024

Published: Feb. 21, 2022 at 8:15 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Last week, Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility General Manager Mark Corsentino sent a response to Anchorage Assembly Vice Chair Chris Constant regarding fluoridation in Girdwood, revealing that the town’s system for adding fluoride to its water has not operated since last year.

According to the response, the utility’s fluoridation system located in Girdwood has not been operating since August 2021. The response was sent ahead of a Feb. 17 Assembly Enterprise Committee Meeting.

The news came as a surprise to many in Girdwood, especially Girdwood Board of Supervisors Co-Chair Mike Edgington.

“We found out about, that the problem had existed for almost a year and there was no plan to fix it until 2024,” Edgington said Monday. “We only discovered that last Thursday.”

A fluoride chemical dosing pump failure in March of last year caused an outage and a replacement pump was installed in July, but a month later the water utility figured out “the pump alone was not a suitable fix to the system because it provided unreliable and inconsistent results,” the memo from Corsentino said.

While many people in Girdwood have their own wells, others rely on the city water system.

“Now there are people in the community who do not agree with water fluoridation and there are many people who do, but all of us, whatever your position is, should know whether the system is working or not at least for these extended periods,” Edgington said. “If it doesn’t for a week that’s one thing, but having the system turned off for a year with a plan of three years having no fluoridation is significant information that we should all be aware of and we have not been notified.”

In the memo to Constant, Corsentino said the existing system is around 20 years old and has had multiple components replaced over time, which has made it no longer able to provide “consistent or reliable fluoride dosages.” It needs to be replaced with a reliable engineered manufactured system, his memo said.

“Some people prefer to do the fluoridation by themselves and provide supplements if there’s none in the water,” Edgington said. “Other people rely on fluoridation of the water, and in both cases if you assume it’s there and it disappears then ... you’re not doing the adding the supplemental fluoride needed for the infant’s and children’s teeth.”

This won’t be fixed in the near future. In the memo, Corsentino said the water utility is “actively analyzing and designing a replacement system” that would be installed as part of what he called the ongoing “Girdwood Well Upgrade Project.” He wrote that the solution to getting the fluoride system back online is to incorporate a new system into the design and construction of the exisiting project.

Corsentino wrote that the larger project is funded, and that adding a fluoride system into the Girdwood Well Upgrade Project is approximately $100,000.

Construction for the Girdwood Well Upgrade Project is anticipated to start in 2023 and won’t be finished in 2024.

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