A trio of local residents appeared before the Great Salt Bay Sanitary District Board of Trustees May 12 to express concerns over the Sanitary District’s practice of adding fluoride to the public water system that serves 1650 customers in Newcastle, Damariscotta and Damariscotta Mills.
Amy Lalime of Damariscotta said she believed the added fluoride provides a dental benefit for children, but she was worried about what it might do to the elderly community.
She said she was worried the fluoride the Sanitary District uses in the local water system comes from China. She also said she had seen news reports that questioned the validity of its use in public water systems.
Kathryn A. Young, a licensed denturist from Damariscotta, urged the district trustees to continue to use fluoride.
“Many patients don’t need fluoride, but our kids do,” she told the board.
Sanitary District Board chairman Allan H. Ray predicted a bitter fight between the pro and anti fluoride camps.
“You got a fight on your hands,” said Ray to Young.
The Sanitary District water system uses 1300 pounds of sodium fluoride a year. They spend about 95 cents a pound.
State water regulations require the chemical to be regulated between one and two parts per million. The most recent test of the Sanitary District water showed it was at 1.17 parts per million, well below the limits.
Scott Abbotoni, the district supervisor of the water operations, said the additive is automatically added to the water supply.
“The system automatically shuts down the pumps if the fluoride goes above two parts per million,” he said.
Stephanie Nelson of Newcastle, echoed Lalime’s concern about the use of Chinese-produced fluoride and she warned the additive is harmful in large doses and can only be removed from the water by using a special reverse osmosis filter.
Cynthia Thomas of Newcastle noted several towns, including Vinalhaven have voted to remove the additive from their water system. She also noted that some European nations do not put it in their water.
However the Maine Center for Disease Control notes some European nations add fluoride to their salt instead of to their water supply.
At least 67 Maine communities add fluoride to their water systems, according to the Maine CDC.
CDC director Dr. Dora Mills calls fluoride the single most effective preventative of tooth decay, the most chronic disease of children.
The Maine State Dental Association is also a strong proponent of the use of fluoride. “It is the most effective public health measure. It is safe and effective,” said Frances Miliano, the MSDA executive director.
While local water district board members listened as the women argued their points about fluoride, its possible benefits and dangers, they told both sides that they have no authority to add or subtract fluoride from the water supply.
“This question was decided by the towns (in 1971),” said Ray.
He told the women they must convince the voters to remove the additive.
“You must make the presentation to the towns. They decide what we put in the water,” he said.
The residents have distributed sheets outlining their objection to fluoride to Fernald’s, the Rising Tide Community Market and Skidompha Library.