- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 24, 2006

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) — Officials in three counties are taking steps to reduce excessive levels of fluoride, which in higher levels can damage teeth.

Drinking water in Smithfield, Suffolk and Isle of Wight has, in some instances, double the recommended levels of cavity-fighting fluoride.

In excessive amounts, fluoride can turn teeth brown and pitted. Double the dose and achy bones may result.

“I see so many kids in this county with horrible-looking teeth,” Isle of Wight resident Sandy Schlaudecker said, adding that officials needed to share more information about how harmful excess fluoride can be.

“The parents don’t understand how bad the water is.”

The Environmental Protection Agency warns that children younger than 9 should not drink water with more than 2 milligrams of fluoride per liter.

The maximum amount the EPA allows is 4 milligrams per liter of water.

But in parts of Smithfield, levels were 4.7 milligrams per liter. They were as high as 6.01 milligrams per liter in the Holland area of Suffolk in 2005.

The problem may be their water source.

Many cities and counties in eastern Virginia have high fluoride levels in groundwater, but most of them draw water from reservoirs.

Smithfield and some rural parts of Isle of Wight and Suffolk are exceptions.

All three entered into agreements with the state Health Department in 2003 and 2004 to drop levels. They have turned to expensive projects to dig new wells and revamp water treatment.

Suffolk connected residents from two community wells to its city water system and is spending $4.1 million to drill a new well, according to Al Moor, the city’s public utilities director.

Officials in Isle of Wight have also built new wells costing about $1.3 million.

Smithfield is making one of the biggest investments. Officials there will spend $6 million to build a treatment plant.

“Once we get it designed, we’ll get it out to bid and see where our numbers come in,” Smithfield Vice Mayor Dan Smith said. “I’m hoping by the time we build the project, it’s going to be cheaper than it is today.”

He said the town opted against building new wells, which he theorized could eventually produce water with equally high levels of fluoride.

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