There’s a set of numbers to consider before the Chippewa Falls City Council hears a plea Tuesday night to add fluoride to the city’s water supply.
And those numbers are 70 to 30.
That’s the percentage that an April 2004 advisory referendum on fluoride was crushed by city voters. The referendum vote was quickly followed by a 6-1 council vote against fluoridating what some in the city tout as the world’s purest water, capping a three-month bitter debate.
Now the fluoride topic is resurfacing at Tuesday’s council’s meeting at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, 30 W. Central St.
Mayor Greg Hoffman, who voted against fluoride when he was a council member in 2004, has invited Jean Durch, director of the county’s Department of Health, to speak on the topic.
“I’m kind of taking a neutral stand on it,” Hoffman said. He said he does not want to influence council members either way with his personal opinion on the subject.
“It’s a different council and they should have the opportunity to discuss it,” he said.
The invitation for Durch to speak came after the Chippewa County Board of Health sent a letter in December to the five communities in the county without fluoridation.
Besides Chippewa Falls, those include Bloomer, Cadott, Lake Hallie and New Auburn.
“Community water fluoridation is an effective, safe and inexpensive way to prevent tooth decay,” the letter said.
“Stanley has been a fluoridated community since 1982 and Cornell since 1966. The Northern Wisconsin Center for the Developmentally Disabled (in Chippewa Falls) also provides fluoridated water to its residents.”
The letter goes on to say nearly 90 percent of Wisconsin residents get their water from systems with fluoridation.
Durch added that, so far, only Chippewa Falls has responded to the letter, which is signed by five county Board of Health members. They include Chippewa County Board members Robert Hoekstra and Jerilyn Brost. Hoekstra is currently the Fifth Ward city council member, but is not seeking re-election April 7 to that post.
Hoekstra did not serve on the 2004 council that rejected fluoridation. Neither did First Ward council member Jack Covill, but the fluoridation issue prompted him to run for council.
Covill, who faces opposition in his re-election bid in April, remains firmly against fluoridation.
“There’s been nothing to change my mind,” he said.
While fluoride has value, he said, “I haven’t seen anything that ingesting it does anything.”
He said there’s people with different medical conditions who oppose adding something else to the water supply.
“I still see Chippewa as having pure water and I would be in favor of taking everything out of it that wasn’t necessary,” Covill said.
Hoffman said if fluoride opponents want to speak they can do so Tuesday under the public appearances portion of the council agenda.
The council could decide to do nothing or refer the issue to a city committee. That would give people the chance to voice their concerns or support, Hoffman said.
“I would hope a lot of this can be addressed at the committee level,” he said.