Dentists plan protest for next Guilford Water Authority meeting
CHAMBERSBURG – Word that Guilford Water Authority is moving forward with plans to remove fluoride from its public water supply sparked a pointed response from dental health professionals this week.
In a letter delivered to GWA customers Saturday, the authority announced its decision and revealed it has begun the permitting process with Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection.
Local dentists say they are “shocked” and “mystified” by the decision to remove an additive they say has improved dental health and saved millions of dollars over a 65-year span.
Dentist Michael Cerveris said he and other dental professionals will be at the next GWA meeting to ask about the reasons for the removal of fluoride. The meeting is at 7 p.m. Monday, March 9, at the Guilford Township Building, 115 Spring Valley Road.
“I think this took everybody by surprise,” Cerveris said Tuesday.
As past president of the Pennsylvania Dental Association, among other similar organizations, Cerveris said he is puzzled by the GWA process and decision.
“Why they are taking it out is a mystery to us,” he says. “It flies in the face of overwhelming evidence that fluoride in public drinking water saves countless millions of dollars and hours of time and pain by reducing tooth decay.”
Another Chambersburg dentist, Ann Miller, said the fluoride-removal decisions is “horrible.”
She cited research posted on the American Dental Association website that states fluoridated water reduces tooth decay in children and adults by 25 percent.
“I was surprised when I got the letter,” said Miller, a Greene Township resident. “I had not heard anything about this in advance. That may be what’s most upsetting.”
Township supervisors in Greene and Guilford townships — where the water authority serves customers — said they had no advance notification of the GWA decision. As an independent authority, the GWA has no specific obligation to notify township officials of its intentions.
Guilford Township Supervisor Chairman Greg Cook said he recalls discussions in a planning meeting a year ago about possibly taking fluoride out of the water treatment process, but added he heard nothing recently. He said supervisors took no position in the fluoride discussion.
“We did not express any support for it (removing fluoride) and we did not know the letters were going out on the street,” Cook said Tuesday.
Todd Burns, chairman of Greene Township’s supervisors, said he had no direct contact with GWA officials and the township received no notification.
Cerveris says that’s a surprise to him, also.
“It seems a little unusual for a decision like this to be made without putting it out for public comment,” he said.
He added the fluoride letter has been a hot topic.
“It’s not just (dental) professionals that are talking,” Cerveris said Tuesday. “All day long people have been asking what they’ve (GWA officials) done and why they’re doing it.”
The fluoride-removal letter, signed by GWA Chairman John Helman, states:
“We believe we should not put anything into the water that is not required by regulation to maintain the potability and pH balance of your water.”
The letter points out that fluoride was first added to public water in the 1950s and that there are opposing viewpoints about the benefits and danger of fluoride that have led some water providers to stop adding fluoride. Further, the letter states, government agencies require no fluoride treatment in public water.
Helman was unavailable for comment. GWA officials told the Public Opinion they could provide no contact information for Helman. Efforts to contact him through Brechbill and Helman, where he is retired, were unsuccessful. A woman there said Helman could not be reached until after March 18, nine days after the upcoming GWA meeting.
GWA managers Gary Yeager and Matthew Drawbaugh did not return phone calls.
Cerveris and Miller point to “voluminous” research supporting the value of fluoride and rejecting the claims of negative impacts. Miller acknowledged that too much fluoride can be harmful, but points out that use in public water is strictly regulated.
Cerveris dismisses claims that fluoride comes with health risks.
“As far as I know those claims are not accurate,” he says. “The scientific arguments for fluid in public water are legitimate.”
There are, however, a number of Internet websites that tout the adverse impact of fluoride, including www.fluoridealert.org. Arguments supporting the use are found at www.fluorideinfo.org, among other sites.
Cerveris said the pro-flouride camp will attend the March 9 meeting — which was not announced in the GWA letter to its customers — armed with considerable information.
“We will bring immense resources to bear,” he says. “We’ll bring facts for them to consider and ask them what facts they considered.”