Gloucester residents are one step closer to being able to determine whether they want fluoride to continue being added to the city’s water supply.
The City Council’s Ordinance and Administration subcommittee devised a non-binding ballot question at its meeting Monday night.
With that, there is an important point the committee, as well as the Cape Ann Fluoride Action Network, would like to make: regardless of any vote, the city’s water supply would not be totally fluoride-free.
A move to eliminate fluoride by residents means that extra fluoride would no longer be added to the water — naturally occurring fluoride would still be in, noted Dr. Richard Sagall, who heads the city’s Board of Health, and council subcommittee Chairman Bob Whynott.
Gloucester is one of two Cape Ann communities exploring whether to discontinue community-wide fluoridation. Rockport voters will face a similar question on their town election ballots when the head to the polls on May 5.
The proposed Gloucester ballot question would basically ask residents if the City Council should urge Gloucester’s state lawmakers to file a Home Rule petition seeking “to opt out of fluoridation,” Whynott said.
Whynott pointed out that no state laws will be specified in the question, and that the Council is not bound by the referendum to file the petition.
“But if it passes and people want to opt out of fluoride, we will opt out,” he said.
Before the question can be put on the ballot, it must gain a majority vote by the full City Council.
Council President Paul McGeary said the language of the question may be slightly altered to be in compliance with state law. If it gains council approval, it would be on the ballot this fall. McGeary said this will all happen without public input, but he does believe there will be some discussion among council members.
While Whynott and others noted that dropping community fluoridation would not make the water supply fluoride-free, members of the Cape Ann Fluoride Action Network would not be troubled by the presence of naturally-occurring fluoride.
Tracey Ritchie, Gloucester coordinator for CAFAN, said the group is “not interested” in removing this natural component from the water, noting that it “would cost millions of dollars.”
The naturally occurring fluoride, or calcium fluoride, is different from the added sodium fluoride, she said.
“It’s a different element,” Ritchie said.
Sagall said the added fluoride pumped into the system accounts for about half the total fluoride in the water.
While CAFAN waits to see if the proposed question is added to the ballot, the network has planned concert/comedy show fundraiser at The Gloucester House to raise money for educational materials, according to Ritchie.
She said the event, featuring singer/songwriter Fly Amero, comic Paul D’Angelo and other local performers, begins at 7 p.m. on April 16 and the group is requesting a $10 donation to their efforts.
“We’re trying to educate people on fluoride,” Ritchie said. “A lot of people don’t know much about it.”