Schenectady County

Cost for Schenectady water chemicals falling fast

Prices for water chemicals that seemed to be exponentially increasing are now falling as quickly


Prices for water chemicals that seemed to be exponentially increasing are now falling as quickly as they once rose.

The three chemicals Schenectady uses to treat its water will cost $63,000 less this year than they did in 2009, according to bids opened last week.

The chemicals include fluoride, used to protect children’s teeth; chlorine, which cleans the water; and orthophosphoric acid, which keeps lead from leaching into the water from old lead-based pipes. That chemical also reduces manganese, which is harmless but discolors water.

Only a few years ago, the price of all three was so high that some municipalities considered eliminating fluoride.

The village of Cobleskill was one of several local municipalities that stopped buying fluoride two years ago, when the price nearly doubled. After a change in village board leadership, fluoride was reinstated last year, even though the price had gone up another 30 percent.

But this year, the price for fluoride and the other chemicals fell dramatically. Commissioner of General Services Carl Olsen said the drop in fuel prices was likely the reason for the savings.

“There’s delivery charges. Everything comes by truck,” he said.

For the past two years, Olsen has personally presented the chemical prices to the City Council and asked them to consider dropping fluoride. This year, he didn’t suggest eliminating it.

Cities started adding fluoride to their water in 1945. They found that it was most effective in protecting teeth if it was consumed before the teeth erupt, and reported a 50 percent to 60 percent drop in cavities, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But later studies, which tried to duplicate the earlier reports, had great difficulty creating scientifically approved control groups since everyone in a city is exposed to the same water. The studies also found much lower rates of cavity reduction, ranging from 18 percent to 40 percent, according to the CDC.

The health agency attributed the lower results to the country’s increased use of fluoride in other sources, particularly toothpaste. With all the other ways to get fluoride today, it’s possible that treated water doesn’t play as large a role anymore, CDC doctors said in a 2001 report.

But Schenectady dentists said the elimination of fluoridated water would hurt poor children, who often don’t go to a dentist unless they have serious tooth decay. They miss out on tooth-cleaning lessons and regular fluoride treatments, dentists said, and thus can’t afford to also lose the benefit of fluoridated water.

In Schenectady, 3,400 children under the age of 12 were living in poverty during the 2000 census.

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