The Gilbert Public Works director has retired and the water director has been dismissed after the town began investigating why one of its water treatment plants failed to fluoridate the water.
Jennifer Alvarez, a Gilbert spokeswoman, said Lonnie Frost and Chris Ochs were placed on leave after it was discovered last month that the North Water Treatment Plant, which treats the water for the northern part of the town, had not fluoridated the water for 13 months.
Frost, the public works director, has now retired after working for the town for about 28 years.
Ochs, who had worked for the town since February 2010, has been offered a letter of dismissal, Alvarez said in a press release Thursday. “Mark Horn will serve as the Interim Public Works Director while a national search is conducted,” Alvarez said.
Mark Horn is the current waste water manager and has been the acting public works director since Aug. 23.
The investigation into why the town water had not been fluoridated continues, according to Alvarez.
“The Town of Gilbert is currently taking steps to review our Water Production and Water Quality operations to ensure best management practices are in place,” Alvarez wrote in a press release.
During Tuesday’s Town Council meeting, the town management recommended a short-term contract with CH2M HILL Engineers to conduct an independent evaluation of all aspects of water production and quality operations, the press release said.
Money for the contract will come out of the budgeted contingency funds and will not impact water rates, it stated.
Additionally, Carollo Engineers, Inc. will design and provide construction administration to the system repairs and upgrades to the fluoridation system at the North Water Treatment Plant, the release stated. The design is expected by the end of the month and construction should take between 30 and 60 days.
The town’s water has been safe to drink, officials said. Fluoride is used to prevent tooth decay in children and adults.
Members in the dental community hail municipal water fluoridation as the reason for decreasing rates of cavities and root canals, especially in children.
Opponents to municipal water fluoridation point to studies that link fluoridation to pits in children’s tooth enamel and lowered IQ scores in children.
In 2000, 54 percent of Gilbert residents voted to add fluoride to drinking water, according to a Tribune article from 2003.
Since adding fluoride to town water, there have been a few attempts to revisit the issue. At a town council meeting in 2003, Shelley Frost, who led the Gilbert anti-fluoridation movement and is the wife of Lonnie Frost, said that the council could find a way to end the fluoridation, according to a Tribune story.
“I believe the council is simply hiding behind the referendum,” Frost told the Tribune at the time. “It’s a political move.”
Gilbert began fluoridating the water in March 2002, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The town is directing residents who have specific questions about water fluoridation to the CDC’s website at www.cdc.gov/fluoridation/guidelines/index.htm.
Phoenix has recently reopened discussion about water fluoridation in its city water. A city council subcommittee will discuss water fluoridation at a meeting on Tuesday.
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