EAST WENATCHEE — Voters in the East Wenatchee Water District have rejected efforts to put fluoride in the regional water system.
“It was the voters’ choice,” said Dr. Robert Merrill, spokesman for Wenatchee Valley Citizens for Healthy Teeth. “Unless there’s a significant change in what people want, it’s dead for now.”
Commissioners in the water district put the non-binding, advisory referendum on Tuesday’s ballot, saying they would go along with the will of the voters.
Eileen Kirkpatrick, who opposed water fluoridation, said voters made the right choice. “I think the current (water district) commissioners will respect the people’s choice,” Kirkpatrick said.
Fluoride could only be added to the water supply if two of the three agencies involved in the system — East Wenatchee, Wenatchee and the Chelan County PUD — agreed.
The Wenatchee City Council had said in the past, and reaffirmed this spring that it favored fluoridation.
The campaigns for and against adding water to the regional water supply were emotional. Signs with skull-and-cross bones calling fluoride a poison were put up by opponents. Those in favor of fluoridation ran a commercial making fun of those fears.
It was also an expensive campaign for pro-fluoride activists, who raised $34, 000. The anti-fluoride group, Wenatchee Valley Citizens for Safe Drinking Water, spent about $3,000.
Those who oppose putting fluoride in the water said they believe it does not prevent tooth decay and can cause health problems.
Wenatchee Valley Citizens for Healthy Teeth said during the campaign that fluoride is a cheap, effective way to control tooth decay, especially for low-income children with limited or no access to dentists. About $2 million is paid to local dentists through Medicaid each year, often for emergency situations which the pro-fluoride faction said could be avoided by the preventive action of fluoride.
“I’m disappointed in the results and unfortunately it’s the vulnerable in our society who will suffer the consequences,” Merrill said