After almost four hours of public testimony Monday night, Keizer City Council chose to continue with a city water fluoridation system improvement project.
The council voted 5-2 against a moratorium on the purchase of more fluoridation equipment to maintain the Environmental Protection Agency-recommended fluoride levels — about 1 milligram per liter.
The equipment will cost about $50,000. Maintaining the five fluoride injection systems to be added — not including a well that now is being rebuilt with fluoride equipment — will cost about $80,000, or $30,000 more per year than the current cost of the city’s nine fluoridated wells.
City Councilor Rich Walsh floated the idea of the moratorium on fluoridation equipment purchases to the council in an effort to save money.
The item did not have a public hearing, but 31 people spoke during the council’s regular open comment period — 21 people were against the moratorium and 10 people were for it.
About 60 people came to listen to the meeting.
Most of those against the moratorium were area dentists, including John McDonald.
“Being against fluoride in my mind is like being against seat belts,” McDonald said. “It’s that clear-cut.”
Salem dentist Brian Gilmore said the studies that anti-fluoridation advocates cited at the meeting that show fluoride can cause health problems are “junk science.”
Don Coons of Keizer responded: “As far as junk science and authorities, I am 67 years old, and I can remember when doctors recommended that I smoke Chesterfields.”
Keizer dentist Ruth Abraham pointed out that most studies show that adding fluoride to water helps prevent cavities.
“We must base our facts on what we do know rather than on the fear of what we don’t know,” she said.
Water fluoridation was approved in Keizer 28 years ago.
Walsh brought the issue before the council Oct. 11 because while serving on the May budget committee he became curious to see if ceasing fluoridating water could help save the city money.
At the October meeting, 12 people spoke for fluoridation and five people were against it. Walsh brought this similar issue again before the council Monday, hoping to compromise with pro-fluoridation advocates.
Not all Keizer city water pumps have fluoride injection systems, so fluoride levels are not met during a 75-day peak flow season in the summer. More fluoride injection systems are being added to keep fluoride-water ratios at recommended levels.
Walsh suggested nixing additional fluoride injection systems and allowing fluoride levels to dip during the summer.
City Councilor David McKane said the city has known about the water fluoridation project for at least eight years and has a funding plan.
Mayor Lore Christopher said she voted against the moratorium because the majority has already ruled on the issue: Most want fluoridated water.