BUFFALO, N.Y. - Eight families with a total of 26 plaintiffs have now joined a class action lawsuit against the city of Buffalo for removing fluoride from the water in 2015.
One plaintiff, Rahwa Ghirmatzion, has a 10-year-old son who she says is dealing with oral health complications due to a lack of fluoride over the years.
"Honestly, it was a very painful response," Ghirmatzion said. "I just was like, viscerally emotional. Emotional because when you have a kid as a parent the only thing you want to do is take care of that kid and make sure that they are taken care of in every way."
Fluoridating drinking water became standard across the United States in the 1950s and it is something Buffalo did up until 2015 when the Water Authority said they were undergoing a study and equipment upgrades. However, the fluoride was never added back.
Ghirmatzion said her prime complaint is that the city is alleged to have never told residents, who could have sought supplements from their dentist. A spokesperson for the city says they do not comment on pending litigation, but supplied this statement to Spectrum News 1:
"Buffalo Water will submit a permit application, including plans, to the Erie County Department of Health within two weeks. Following a Health Department Review, Buffalo Water expects to begin construction and testing within six weeks. Essential items, such as flow metering equipment, has already been ordered to help ensure timely construction."
A note about the water was included in the city's annual water report, but Ghirmatzion and the families suing the city believe more should have been done to inform residents.
This past winter, when Spectrum News 1 reached out the Water Board, Chairperson Oluwole A. McFoy, P.E. responded in a statement saying:
“Buffalo is committed to fluoridation of our drinking water, which is why we have invested over $1 million to study and upgrade our current system. The plan was for the project to be completed several years ago, but like many things, was slowed during the pandemic and is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year. Buffalo Water’s role as a Public Health provider is to ensure safe drinking water for all our residents. We initially placed the Fluoride Conversion project on hold out of an abundance of caution for water quality concerns related to lead and corrosion control. We partnered with the University at Buffalo to develop a state of the art Pipe Loop Laboratory, where they studied the treatment process optimizations over several years and concluded in November 2019 that: 'The results provide strong statistical evidence that the addition of FSA (fluorosilicic acid) does not result in increased leaching of lead.'"
While many things were slowed during the pandemic, Buffalo has continued to say that they are committed to moving forward with the fluoride upgrade project. A statement on page six of the Buffalo Water Authority 2021-2022 Water Quality Report states:
“Our system is one of the many drinking water systems in New York State that provides drinking water with a controlled, low level of fluoride for consumer dental health protection. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC), fluoride is very effective in preventing cavities when present in drinking water at a properly controlled level. Currently there is an interruption to fluoride addition due to ongoing capital improvements associated with upgrades to our fluoride system. Since June 22, 2015 fluoride has not been added to your drinking water, and we do not expect fluoride addition to be restored until completion of various capital projects. You may want to discuss this with your family dentist to see if some other form of fluoride supplement should be considered for your dental protection.”
According to the report, the average amount of fluoride per liter of drinking water was 0.13 parts per million, but the recommended amount by the CDC is 0.7 parts per million.