Marquette, Houghton and Iron Mountain explain what’s in their drinking water

Marquette’s water is fluoridated, while Houghton and Iron Mountain’s water is not fluoridated.
According to the CDC and the U.S. Public Health Service, fluoridated water in the amount ranging from 0.7 ppm to 1.2 ppm is safe to drink.
Published: May. 31, 2023 at 6:56 PM EDT
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MARQUETTE, HOUGHTON AND IRON MOUNTAIN Mich. (WLUC) - The City of Marquette is one of 21 municipalities in Upper Michigan with a fluoridated water system. Included in this list are Escanaba, Ishpeming, Negaunee and Munising.

Marquette City Manager Karen Kovacs said the city adds 0.7 ppm of fluoride to its water based on the CDC’s recommendation.

“The City of Marquette follows the guidance provided by the experts such as the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) and their water division to ensure the health and safety of our residents when it comes to fluoridation of the water supply,” Kovacs explained.

According to the CDC and the U.S. Public Health Service, fluoridated water in the amount ranging from 0.7 ppm to 1.2 ppm is safe to drink.

The agencies say fluoridated water is meant to, “maximize cavities prevention and limit enamel fluorosis.”

Marquette gets its water from Lake Superior.

According to the city’s water quality data from 2022, Marquette’s water contains other chemicals and minerals.

This includes 7.28 ppm of sodium and 0.68 ppm of chlorine. According to the EPA, these amounts are within the range of what is considered safe to drink.

In Houghton, the city’s water supply is not fluoridated. It is one of 100 U.P. municipalities that does not fluoridate its water.

City Manager Eric Waara said he worked on the design of the city’s current water system roughly 30 years ago.

Waara explained that the city uses groundwater which it gets from a natural aquifer beneath Lake Superior.

When asked about why the city doesn’t fluoridate its water, Waara said it’s because Houghton’s water contains other naturally occurring minerals.

“Our groundwater is high in iron and manganese,” Waara said.

He continued, “Both of those minerals are inert and not considered hazardous in the quantities we have them.”

Despite this, Waara said the city still filters iron and manganese out of its water.

This is mainly because iron can stain things it touches if left in the water.

After filtering out these two minerals, Houghton chlorinates its water and adds sodium carbonate to balance the pH levels.

“This helps temper the aggressiveness of the water to corrode plumbing,” Waara added.

Waara said Houghton also has the ability to pump its water to Hancock in case of an emergency with that city’s water system.

Overall, Waara said Houghton’s water system is simple and effective with no concerns of note.

“I think we’re going to keep maintaining the system we have,” Waara said.

He continued, “Its a very simple system. The filter media has to be changed, I think it’s been changed once or twice since we built the plant and we’ll probably have to change it again in a few years.”

Iron Mountain also does not add fluoride to its water.

City manager Jordan Stanchina said Iron Mountain’s water comes from wells.

Stanchina added Iron Mountain does not fluoridate its water because of a charter amendment passed in 1989 prohibiting the city from doing so.

Like Houghton, Stanchina said Iron Mountain added chlorine to its water as a disinfectant.

Stanchina concluded that Iron Mountain is looking to improve its water system as it ages.

“We recently applied for the clean water and drinking water state revolving loan fund project in anticipation of hopefully receiving some funding to address that issue,” Stanchina explained.

Fluoridated or not fluoridated, Stanchina, Waara and Kovacs said they are fully confident in the safety of their cities’ water systems.

Stanchina said water sources across Upper Michigan range anywhere from brand new to more than 100 years old.

Stanchina added that each municipality makes a decision to fluoridate its water based on many other factors like this.