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City earns fluoride award

The City of Detroit Lakes is helping keep teeth healthier.

The Minnesota Department of Health Oral Health Program and Drinking Water Protection Section has awarded the city the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention 2011 Water Fluoridation Quality Award.

"We had very good, acceptable levels for 12 continuous months," Public Utilities General Manager Vernell Roberts said.

Staff at the water treatment facility in Detroit Lakes, he explained, injects fluoride into the water distribution system. It may sound easy, but there's much more to it than a simple injection.

Since the Detroit Lakes system is so spread out and goes around the lake, Roberts said it's a "real big chemistry experiment" to get the right amount of fluoride to each household -- and to keep it balanced.

Staff tests the water in various places a few times a week, he said, making sure the water stays consistent.

And though the water could test correctly for a period of time, lots of outside factors can cause a change in water at any given moment.

In the summer, more water is used, so the amount of fluoride has to be changed. If a water main breaks and there's excess water loss, the chemistry changes.

The fluoride also has to spread out throughout the system evenly. Those who live close to the water treatment facility can't have a higher dosage of fluoride than those who live on the east side of town.

The Water Fluoridation Quality Award has been in existence for 10 years. Roberts said he's uncertain how often the city has earned the award in the past though since he's new to the position.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.