King introduces bill that sets new criteria for water additives
LITTLE ROCK -- Last week, state Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, filed Senate Bill 255, which would establish criteria for substances added to public drinking water that are not required to make it potable.
This bill would pertain to chemicals like fluoride.
The bill follows a long controversy in the state over adding fluoride to public water systems. In 2011, Gov. Mike Beebe signed Act 197 into law, requiring it be added to those systems serving 5,000 or more people. The Act mandates that startup costs not come from taxes or water fees, but from private sources.
Dental Dental, a dental insurer, stepped forward to say it would pay for fluoridation equipment at all affected water systems in the state.
Carroll-Boone Water District, which serves 25,000 customers in Carroll and Boone counties, falls under the mandate.
King's bill sets forth that protection of public health is necessary where additives are concerned because of a number of factors. Those include issues such as the Environmental Protection Agency giving up "all enforceable oversight responsibilities for direct water additives in 1988;" water additive oversight being administered by a "non-governmental body with no direct responsibility to health agencies or consumers;" increased discussions about adding substances such as lithium and statin drugs, as well as fluoride; questionable sources of chemical products; and lack of mandated disclosure of chemical contents and impurities, which can impact not only public health, especially for certain populations, but emergency response planning at water treatment plants.
The bill puts the onus of responsibility upon water operators to obtain products that are proven, in the amounts administered, to treat the diseases for which they are intended and that they are safe for such use.
The bill also requires water operators to purchase only products that come with full disclosure of the country of origin, and of contents and contaminants, including a list of toxicological studies that show the product to be safe.
The product must also meet the American National Standards Institute Standard 60.
Water operators can be sued for failing to follow these requirements.
Progress on building and implementing fluoride treatment facilities in Carroll County has been on hold since last year over a difference between Delta Dental and CBWD's engineers about necessary startup costs. In March, then-State Rep. King, who had voted against mandatory fluoridation, obtained an opinion from the State of Arkansas Bureau of Legislative Research about whether CBWD would be obligated to pay for implementation of fluoridation if grant funds fell short.
"The answer is probably 'No,'" the bureau wrote. "...Unless non-tax, no-fee funds are available for capital startup costs, the water system is not required to carry out any of the requirements of the Act."
King said at the time that fluoride is a local issue that should be by vote of the people. He said he had become educated about the dangers of fluoride when so many of his constituents urged him to vote against mandating it and when the CBWD water operators themselves came out unanimously against it.
"When you have water operators who work for Carroll-Boone expressing concerns about it -- and they are the experts -- you give it a lot more attention," he said.