Kirkland Lake council unanimously voted in favour of motion not to add fluoride to the town’s water.
The town had stopped adding fluoride to the water Sept. 28 because the fluoridation system could not longer be operated safely. The cost of replacing fluoridation tanks is estimated to be between $360,000 and $375,000.
Cost was not the major factor in council’s decision to support the motion. Several members of council voiced concern about forcing people to ingest a substance into their bodies that is not natural in the water. Councillors also voiced concern that babies and adults receive the same amount of fluoride in the water and there could be health concerns about this.
Kirkland Lake Director of Physical Services Mark Williams told council they had three options; they could put in new tanks and keep adding fluoride to the water, they could stop fluoridating the water but pay for people to purchase fluoride pills or they could just stop adding fluoride.
He explained to council that a number of years ago the town developed a policy of providing residents with clean safe drinking water and under this policy the water would still be clean and safe with out fluoridation. Williams also told council that they would still meet all the provincial regulations if they didn’t fluoridate the water, but would have to pass a bylaw to that effect. Another option allowed is to hold a referendum on the issue but that is not mandatory, it is only an option.
Out of 12 Timiskaming water plants, Williams said, Kirkland Lake is the only one that adds fluoride to the water. When it comes to building new water treatment plants, he said, the trend is only the larger centres that are mandated to add fluoride are including it in their new plants.
Councillor Todd Morgan said he doesn’t have a big problem with it being a budget issue but he is hung up on it being another service the town if forced to provide and does not receive funding for so the taxpayer pays for it.
Councillor Tony Antoniazzi the fluoride is provided to help prevent cavities as a preventative health care treatment. His problem is he does not believe he has the right or the qualifications to tell people they must digest fluoride and for that reason is opposed to fluoridation.
Councillor Jean-Guy Chamaillard raised the concern about babies ingesting the same amount of fluoride as adults. As well he was concerned that since only about eight percent of the town’s water is used for drinking they are spending money putting fluoride in water that is used for other things such as washing clothes. This the councillor sees as a waste.
While costs were not a major concern for most of the council, Councillor Al French had an issue with the costs. He said there is very little benefit from fluoride and costs will escalate over time. If it currently costs $35,000 a year to provide fluoride in the water in 10 years it could cost $350,000 per year. Because of the costs French said he is not comfortable supporting fluoridation.
Councillor Normand Mino said he was leaning to option two where the town would pay for people’s fluoridation pills and by taking this option the town would meet people’s needs. He continued that if he felt pressured by constituents he would support a referendum on fluoridation.
Councillor Tom Barker also had problems with fact babies would ingest the same amount of fluoride as a person his size.
Mayor Bill Enouy said he wouldn’t be against fluoridation because of the costs involved. He said he has heard from dentists associations that say keep the fluoride and he has heard from 20-year-olds saying they don’t want it in the water.
The mayor asked, “Why do I want to put something in people’s water system? I do not think that is ethical.” He also noted that fluoride is available in toothpastes, mouthwashes and some bottled water.
As for paying for resident’s fluoride pills Enouy said if the health unit thinks it is necessary for people to have fluoride then the health unit can pay for it.
Enouy concluded that a few years ago asbestos was considered safe and water was delivered in lead pipes and it was not until people studied these did they know they were unsafe.
The motion passed will now come back to council at its next meeting in the form of a bylaw for council to pass or reject.