Athens City Councilman Elahu Gosney requested that the city separate legislation to approve chemicals used to fluoridate the city’s drinking water from other water treatment chemical approval requests, which would give fluoride opponents on Council the opportunity to voice their opinion.
On Monday evening, Council discussed the purchase for 2013 of salt and other chemicals used in the treatment of the city’s water supply. However, Gosney requested that fluoride be voted on separately.
“If they were separated as different issues then we could have the right to vote against the purchase of that and wouldn’t deter the rest of the chemicals…” Gosney said.
However, other Council members questioned Gosney’s motive.
A handful of Athens residents have expressed health concerns over the city’s use of fluoride in its water supply. But the city administration, most of Council and Law Director Patrick Lang have said that the city is mandated by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to fluoridate its water.
Gosney and some other fluoride opponents have argued that the city is not mandated to do so, and a group is working to put an initiative on the 2013 primary ballot to have fluoride removed from the water.
Councilwoman Chris Knisely questioned why Gosney would try to set up a situation where funding for the fluoride could fail, putting the city in violation of the Ohio Revised Code.
“It needs to come before the citizens if they want to vote on it,” she said.
Councilwoman Chris Fahl asked Gosney why he only wanted to separate fluoride and not all the chemicals.
“There’s only one (chemical) that’s been publicly debated pretty hotly over the years,” Gosney said, adding that separating out the fluoride approval would give opponents “the opportunity to make that statement.”
Fahl continued, “It seems to be something that’s very political. When we start playing politics with our budgets, that leads to a no-good place.”
Councilman Jeff Risner said he agreed.
“It’s a dangerous precedent to set — when we are indeed mandated by the EPA to fluoridate our water — with even (the) possibility that this would not be approved,” said Athens Service-Safety Director Paula Horan Moseley.
“Some of us disagree with that being a mandate,” Gosney said.