Nine months later Marine City officials are considering the merits of having fluoride in city water.
An incident last spring caused workers to shut down the tank used to fluoridate city water, ending at least a 40-year practice.
Now, officials are waiting on a cost assessment for new equipment and are doing their own research into the pros and cons of fluoridation.
City Manager John Gabor said, according to the MDEQ, the city can no longer use the current equipment for fluoride treatment.
“After it was shut it down last April or May, they said unless we fix it, we can’t continue fluoridating the water,” he said. “The first thing we looked for was if we were required to put it in. There is nothing in the records that it was voted on.”
City Clerk Diana Kade is now looking through the past 40 years of records to find some documentation on a vote by city officials or Marine City citizens.
“My office is still reviewing the minutes for 30-45 years ago,” she said. “That’s a big time frame.”
Kade is also conducting some research of her own. As a member of the Michigan Clerk’s Association, she was also able to send out a questionnaire in a mass e-mail to communities with their own water systems, she said. She asked whether they currently have fluoridation systems or if they had them in the past. So far, 13 of the communities responded. The feedback is mixed – eight of them fluoridate and five do not.
“With Marine City not fluoridating, it’s close to being split,” she said.
Grand Haven, one of the polled cities that practices fluoridation, responded by sending her a poster called “Water Fluoridation in Michigan.”
An official from Three Rivers, a community that doesn’t fluoridate, told her the issue was put on a ballot proposal twice and was turned it down both times.
Kade plans on presenting her findings to the city manager and mayor.
Former Marine City official Elaine McKenzie believes the issue was voted in by a majority of the Marine City citizens about 40 years. McKenzie said she thinks she remembers voting on the issue at the time, but can’t be sure. She is currently lobbying for the addition of fluoride to the water supply.
“I have three grandchildren in Marine City,” she said. “When I was a kid, I had bad teeth. A dentist was able to save my teeth but I don’t want my grandchildren or any other kids to go through what I went through.”
Fluoride is said to prevent tooth decay, according to the American Dental Association.
McKenzie pointed out the increase in low-income families due to the poor economy, along with cutbacks in state-funded human services, as arguments for fluoridation.
“They are cutting dental programs and parents don’t have the money to send their kids to the dentist,” she said. “These kids need it.”
Mayor Bob Lepley said there are many “conspiracy theories” on the Web, but he is looking for scientific evidence before he casts his vote. Although he sees both sides, he has some concerns about the effects of regularly ingesting a foreign substance into his system.
“One thing that concerns me is it is running though every part of your body – the stomach, liver and other internal organs,” he said. “In this day and age where people are eating organic foods, people are getting more conscious of what they put into their bodies.”
Research shows fluoride is poisonous if not diluted. The mandated ratio for the substance in municipal water is one part per million.
Ira Township hasn’t treated its municipal water with fluoride since at least 1983, said Eric Barnowski, Department of Public Works assistant superintendent. Barnowski’s duties include managing the water department.
“In the 27 years I’ve worked here, we’ve never fluoridated the water,” he said.
Each year, the township is required by law to send out a consumer confidence report outlining chemistry, pollutants or contaminants, if any; and fluoride levels of the drinking water. Barnowski said some natural occurring fluoride sometimes appears in surface waters, but not the levels recommended by the state.
The water department has received phone calls on both sides of the fluoride issue, especially since Marine City began re-evaluating its practice, but concerns have been minimal.
“There’s never been a concentrated effort started — just individual citizens,” he said. “Nothing has ever been brought up to the board.”
Township officials don’t give recommendations to residents regarding fluoride, he said, mainly because they believe the decision should be made by individual households.
“We don’t want to supersede the people’s decisions,” he said. “They should look at their own individual needs, look into it and seek their doctor’s and dentist’s advice, and then, if needed, do their own treatment.”