POTTSTOWN — The borough authority held off recently on making a decision on a proposal to cease adding fluoride to the public water supply.
Tuesday was the first meeting of the authority board since two sets of public hearings on the subject were held — hearings which attracted little interest from the public.
“It seemed to me we didn’t have an awful lot of people interested,” said Ron Downie, president of the authority board.
“I know the way I am leaning,” Downie said, adding, “It seems to me the science makes a statement both ways, so I almost have to discount it and make a decision using another parameter.”
The idea to ceasing to add fluoride to the the water system that provides water in Pottstown, West Pottsgrove, Lower Pottsgrove, Upper Pottsgrove, Douglass (Berks) and North Coventry began in December when an examination of the budget revealed that $32,000 could be saved by eliminating the process.
Within the month, the authority was visited by two dentists who argued that the public health benefit of the practice and the money it saved low-income families in dental bills far outweighed the cost.
Almost as quickly, those who argue that new studies have indicated negative side effects from the practice, everything from learning disabilities to increasingly fragile bones, weighed in on the debate.
And while both sides weighed in equally during the two public hearings the authority held — one during a snowstorm on Jan. 28 and the second as a follow-up on Feb. 12 — neither hearing drew a large crowd.
“There really is no middle ground,” Brent Wagner, superintendent of the wastewater treatment plant, said of the hearings, which he helped run. “People are either totally for it, or totally against it.”
“Half said they want it, half said they don’t. The way I look at it, we are forcing it on people who don’t want it, whereas people who want it can go out and get a very cheap prescription,” said authority board member Don Read.
Read then made a motion to decide the matter once and for all, but he could not convince the rest of the board, which wanted more information.
For example, Downie said he wants to know the views of the area’s state legislators on the subject and whether there is any legislation on the subject pending.
Authority Solicitor David Garner said information provided on the Web site of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control noted that 70 percent of the public water systems in the United States have fluoridated water and 62 percent of the U.S. population receives fluoridated water out of the tap.
And Read said the authority may have difficulty marketing its water to other water suppliers who do not add fluoride.
“It may not be a deal-breaker, but (having fluoride in the water) does not help move things along,” Read said. “As far as I’m concerned, we’re in the water business, not the health business.”
However, Downie deflected a vote, tabling the matter and saying, “Time is not of the essence here.”
Wagner added that after a vote it would take about six months to get all the necessary paperwork approved to make a change final.