Like water itself, the truth has leaked out: Oxford’s water no longer contains fluoride. Citing rising costs, the city’s Water Works and Sewer Board decided 15 months ago to stop adding the chemical to its supply. The board broke no laws. It followed state procedure. It notified the Alabama Department of Environmental Management and the Alabama Department of Public Health.
But it did not tell the residents who drink the water.
Problem? Yes — and it has nothing to do with fluoride.
It has to do with openness and accountability.
Clearly, the debate over fluoride isn’t a stop-the-press incident. More than 30 percent of the United States does not have access to fluoridated water. Despite preventing tooth decay, flouride can lead to health problems if there’s over-exposure, critics claim. And here in Calhoun County, Oxford now is one of three water systems — joining those of Calhoun County and Weaver — that does not add fluoride.
But the failure to inform residents that the contents of their water had changed creates doubt about the sincerity of that city’s leaders. What else have Oxford residents not been told? Have other changes to their city services been kept from them?
In fairness, the decision to leave Oxford residents in the dark may have been no decision at all. It may have been an oversight, a simple human error. We hope that’s the case.
Nevertheless, this is proof of why city governments, boards and agencies must have complete openness. Citizens must know what’s going on. Anything less is unacceptable. The proof is in the water.