Changes in the water for Bethany

There are changes in the water for Bethany Beach, and one of those changes is coming despite a less-than-enthusiastic reception from town officials.

While the town recently elected to replace the chlorine it has been using to disinfect its water supply with chloramine (per new federal guidelines and said to result in fewer byproducts), the move to fluoridate town water is not a step town officials are taking willingly.

Having rejected fluoridation of Bethany Beach’s water at previous votes of the town council — despite state law requiring it and having included the provision in the town’s own land-use plan — the bulk of current council members abstained from casting a vote on the issue when asked to do so at their Sept. 16 meeting.

Given their druthers, most would likely have outright rejected the notion once again. But Town Manager Cliff Graviet informed them that on a recent visit, a representative of the state Division of Drinking Water had advised the town it was “no longer taking a passive approach” toward the issue and would now be mandating — and enforcing — fluoridation for the town’s water supply.

On previous consideration, council members had expressed concern about the safety of fluoride for some, as well as what offsetting degree of benefit it would provide for the town’s predominantly adult population.

Mayor Jack Walsh first asked Graviet to confirm that the change in state policy on enforcement of the Title 16 requirement left the council members with essentially “no choice” in the matter.

Walsh invited any one of the council members to introduce a resolution making the change official. Secretary/Treasurer Tony McClenny quickly did so, being the one who had championed the move during previous consideration. (His motion had died without a second at that time.)

Council Member Wayne Fuller asked if the town would suffer some sort of consequences if it didn’t comply with the mandated fluoridation, to which Town Solicitor Terence Jaywork replied that they would be in violation of state law. “Will they come down and arrest you?” he elaborated with a wry tone. “I don’t know.”

Other council members chose not to endorse the change, opting to abstain from the voting. In the end, Council Member Jerry Dorfman volunteered to change his abstention to a vote in favor, at the prodding of Jaywork, who indicated that an additional favorable vote was required to make the move official.

Graviet noted that the $5,000 worth of equipment needed for fluoridation was already in place and that the cost to the town would be reimbursed by the state once the fluoridation process was under way.

Town water lines were due to be flushed this week, marking the beginning of the change to chloramine from chlorine on Monday or Tuesday. A definitive date for fluoridation to begin has not yet been announced.