HARRISONBURG – So far, Timberville residents are the only ones in Rockingham County voicing concerns to local government about fluoride in their water.
Nevertheless, county officials are keeping a close eye on the subject.
Over the last several months, Timberville folks have complained to the town’s council about the chemical additive, which has been added to public water systems for decades to prevent cavities.
Some want it in, others want it out.
Scientific research presented at a town meeting last month supported advantages and disadvantages for both schools of thought.
On Wednesday, county Supervisors Dee Floyd, Fred Eberly, Bill Kyger, Pablo Cuevas and County Administrator Joe Paxton told the Daily News-Record that they haven’t heard any complaints about the subject from their respective constituencies.
The county’s Public Works Department hasn’t been fielding any complaints about fluoridation, either.
“I haven’t heard anything from anybody … except in Timberville,” said Cuevas, the supervisor whose district encompasses the Broadway and Timberville areas.
But that doesn’t mean officials aren’t paying attention.
Warren Heidt, director of public works for the county, said he’s following the debate and conducting his own research on the matter.
“I’m anxiously awaiting the decision on the Timberville situation,” Heidt said. “We’ll see how it goes. If they decide to remove [fluoride], we may very well take a look at that later. We’ll decide for ourselves if that’s a good or bad idea.”
Depending on where they live, county residents get their water – all of it with added fluoride – from a variety of places, Heidt said.
A few communities, notably Belmont Estates, get their water from Harrisonburg. A few other developments, such as Crossroads Farms and Battlefield Estates, buy water from the county.
Folks in Dayton, Bridgewater, Massanutten Village and the Timberville-Broadway area operate their own water systems, he said. Most everyone else uses a well.
The county spends about $12,000 annually to add the chemical to the water, Heidt said.
The town held a public hearing Sept. 8 at Plains Elementary School, where dentists with opposing views on the issue presented their side of the story.
Opponents of fluoridation told the audience the practice is not safe for babies and people with specific health concerns. But supporters claimed that decades of research – backed by more than 100 leading U.S. and world public health organizations – proves fluoride reduces cavities in children and adults.
Forty people gathered for the hearing, which became heated at times. A few days later, on Sept. 11, the council voted to table the issue until this month’s meeting to give two council members who missed the forum a chance to view a videotape of the event.
“I have mixed feelings about it,” said Cuevas, who attended the meeting. “I don’t know who is right and wrong. I’m not knowledgeable on the subject.”