Corning, N.Y. – Proposition 1 is not a vote whether to fluoridate city water, but the results will have a major impact on that decision.
The proposition will allow Corning city residents to decide if they would like to change the City Charter to strip the City Council of its authority to fluoridate water.
A “yes” vote will amend the charter removing the City Council’s authority to fluoridate water. A “no” vote would keep the charter as it’s presently written, and the City Council would retain the authority to fluoridate the city water supply.
In the fall of 2007, several months after the City Council voted, 5-4, to fluoridate, a group of residents opposed to the plan launched a petition drive.
The petition ultimately placed Proposition 1 on Tuesday’s ballot.
Mayor Tom Reed said residents who don’t want the City Council to decide on fluoridation should vote “yes.”
“If they want the City Council to decide the issue, they should vote no,” Reed said. “Yes is no and no is yes.”
If the proposition fails Tuesday and the council retains its authority, the issue is still not settled.
The City Council would then have to formally vote to move forward with fluoridation.
However, if the proposition passes Tuesday, the council loses its authority to fluoridate and the issue is over.
Chad Moore, a resident against fluoridation, said the cost to install fluoride could easily run upwards of $500,000.
“This project is going to cost more money than anyone claims,” Moore said. “It was originally a piggyback on a water disinfection project. The city is not going to receive a grant for the disinfection project, so my guess is this could cost the city a major amount of funds.”
An engineering firm told city officials in early 2006 that is would cost $338,600 to fluoridate the four city wells. In late 2006, engineers pared back the project and said it would cost $196,656 to fluoridate two city wells.
A pro-fluoride group has raised $100,000 to help pay for the project.
City Manager Mark Ryckman said the work was originally expected to be completed as part of a disinfection project costing $600,000.
Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. had received a $300,000 earmark to help pay for the project, but the funding was eventually cut from the federal budget.
The city currently loses 20 percent of the 1.5 billion gallons of water it produces each year due to the age of city water pipes, according to the city Department of Public Works.
The age of pipes is one of the major infrastructure problems in the city, officials said. Nearly 90 percent of the city’s water pipes are more than 50 years old and about 75 percent of the pipes are more than 100 years old.
“You would think they would want to replace the pipes before they vote to fluoridate the water,” said Kirk Huttleston, who opposed fluoridation.
David C. Schirmer, a Corning Dentist who supports the initiative, said water fluoridation has been an issue for about 60 years.
“It’s one of the most widely studied issues,” Schirmer said. “Currently, 70 percent of the people in the U. S. receive fluoridated water.”
Schirmer said there are three primary reasons why people oppose fluoride.
“The first is the fear of the unknown,” Shirmer said. “The second is an unreasonable fear of danger, and the third is expense.”
Shirmer said there has not been a peer review completed that shows any danger caused by fluoridation. As far as costs, there is an expense, but it is minimal compared to the savings created by better oral hygiene.
Those in favor of fluoridation are quick to point out that is has been identified as one of the 10 greatest public health achievements of the 20th century. The decline in the prevalence and severity of tooth decay in the U. S. has been attributed largely to the increased use of fluoride.
Shirmer said fluoridation is an equitable and cost-effective method for delivering fluoride to the community
Moore said a much better way to solve dental problems is get local dentists to accept Medicaid, provide toothpaste and toothbrushes to kids and educate them on eating healthy food.
Reed, who is also a municipal attorney, said a false claim has circulated neighborhoods that Steuben County could ultimately decide the city’s fluoride issue.
“This is clearly wrong,” Reed said.