By Amber Jurgensen | Staff Writer
For the first time, Plant City will have fluoride added to the municipal water supply, thanks to a $386,000 grant from the state, which includes a supplemental grant from the Hillsborough County Health Department.
“We’ve debated about it a couple times before, but the cost was prohibitive,” Mayor Mike Sparkman said.
The pro-ject has gone through the engineering stage and has received permits from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Bidding will begin after the city posts a notice in the next few months.
The project includes installing a small pump, which will meter the fluoride distributed into the water. The project is expected to be finished by January.
According to the FDLE, 76.7% of people served by community water systems receive optimally fluoridated water, reaching 69.5% of Florida’s population. Fluoride is used to prevent tooth decay and cavities in children.
“Water fluoridation has (more than) 50 years of proven, evidence-based research to reduce decay by 40% to 60%,” said Kim Herremans, a dental consultant with the Florida Department of Health.
Herremans and her husband, Bradley Herremans, CEO of Suncoast Community Health Center, were involved from the beginning to advocate for the project.
“Tooth decay is a big problem in this community,” Bradley Herremans said.
According to Kim Herremans, through the WIC Smiles 4 U dental outreach program, the mobile dental coach surveillance has found that 16% of their cases required urgent care. These cases involve children that have abscesses or are in pain. Thirty percent have been found to have active decay and need immediate follow-up dental care. The population was found to have a 46% unmet dental need in the Plant City area, according to Kim Herremans.
“We thought it was important to do it for our children,” Sparkman said. “It is the thing to do, and I’m excited about it.”
The city commission debated the project for more than five years. In 2010, commissioners voted to pursue the state grant, which was obtained last summer.
Contact Amber Jurgensen at firstname.lastname@example.org.