Voters in the city of Fond du Lac won’t get a chance to weigh in on the water fluoridation issue.
The City Council voted 4-3 on Wednesday night to reject a proposal calling for an advisory referendum on whether fluoride, a chemical that prevents tooth decay, should be added to Fond du Lac’s water supply. Fluoride has been added to the city’s water since 1950.
Before voting on the matter, the council heard impassioned comments from residents speaking on both sides of the fluoride issue.
Those in favor of removing fluoride from the water argued that residents should have a say in the water supply they pay to maintain.
“Let the people you are forcing to consume this poison vote on this issue once and for all,” urged local resident Dawn Turner.
Fluoride advocates argued that polling voters on the issue was a waste of time and money and urged City Council members to listen to scientists and health officials.
“This proposed advisory referendum has no legislative effect,” said Samantha Twohig, a local dental hygienist. “It will simply put you, the City Council, at the center of a circus of information and misinformation.”
Another fluoride advocate, William Post, said that public health issues shouldn’t be decided by public referendums. The fluoridation issue, he said, was complex and not easily understood.
“The anti-fluoride people are very good at stirring up fear,” he said.
Councilman Jeremy Thiesfeldt, who led the charge to put the fluoride issue on the ballot, made it clear that he wanted the public to have a voice.
“Why should those who pay for the water not have some say in what is put in it?” he said.
Lindee Kimball countered that argument, noting that she had just toured the city’s new $31.5 million treatment facility, which was built to remove radium, a radioactive element known to cause cancer, from the water supply so the city will be in compliance with federal standards.
“If fluoride was so bad for us, wouldn’t the federal government make us take it out?” she said.
She added that the referendum would cost the city several thousand dollars.
The fluoride debate has a long history in Fond du Lac. That history includes heated argument and passionate debate but very little action.
The first major challenge to fluoridation came in 1994, when a local group filed a lawsuit to challenge the city’s authority to put the chemical in the water.
The suit failed and the Wisconsin Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s decision upholding the city’s authority.
The fluoride challenge was revived in 2002, when the City Council decided not to pursue a referendum on the matter. Residents attempted to force the issue with a petition.
Although the petition had the required number of signatures, it was deemed invalid.
Later, in 2002 and again in 2004, the subject of fluoridation was again brought before the council, but no action was taken.