Fluoride is out – for now anyway.
Shortly before 1 p.m. on Friday, March 18, Town of Parry Sound staff flicked the switch off at the Tony Agnello Water Treatment Plant, ending the fluoridation of its water supply.
During its regular council meeting on March 15, council approved the bylaw to remove fluoride from the town’s water.
In a recorded vote, all of council was in favour of the chemical’s removal, except for Coun. Bonnie Keith, who remained a staunch supporter of fluoridated water.
“I’ve still given thought on this matter and where we are and I respect the decision so far that council has made. However, I thought about tonight and I thought I could take the easy way out for myself and support this, but I just cannot in my heart support this,” Keith said. “I have looked at the material, I still feel the same way. I do feel that I can respect people making that decision in a referendum vote, but I would have hoped that the vote would be occurring now rather than waiting the two years. My concern is in the meantime we will have some people, I think…there will be some impact to this.”
Keith said the one positive to come from the vote Tuesday, was it would allow council to move on to other issues.
The move to discontinue fluoridation comes after a nine-month battle by Parry Sounders for Progressive Water Management that began in June 2015 after the town agreed to keep the chemical in its water.
See ‘Issue’ page 2
In September of 2015, Peter Brown, director of public works recommended the town spend $250,000 in upgrades to the plant to ensure the safety of staff that dispenses fluoride into the water system. Additionally, another $4,500 to $5,000 would be needed annually to keep the water fluoridated.
By November 2015, the group suggested a referendum to let Parry Sound and McDougall residents decide if they wanted their water fluoridated.
McDougall Township has been purchasing water from the town since 2007.
If Town of Parry Sound council chose not to bring the issue back to the table, a referendum at a cost of $19,000 plus staff time would have been held if 10 per cent of both Parry Sound and McDougall’s electorate signed a petition wanting fluoride removed.
In January, members of the group headed out on foot, canvassing the streets of Parry Sound soliciting signatures in support of removing fluoride.
More than 90 per cent of those polled in Parry Sound wanted the chemical out, while surveys sent out to McDougall residents showed that of the 349 surveyed, 99 respondents wanted fluoride out, and 16 wanted to keep the water fluoridated.
A question will be put on the municipal election ballots in both Parry Sound and McDougall in 2018 asking voters if they want the water fluoridated.
Last Tuesday, Coun. Brad Horne encouraged those in Parry Sound and McDougall Township to conduct their own research and look at the evidence on both sides to make their own informed decision.
“If it does stay in we do have to do a $250,000 upgrade, so that does weigh on the situation, right now anyway,” said Mayor Jamie McGarvey.
On March 16, McDougall Township passed the bylaw to remove fluoride from its water supply.
McDougall Mayor Dale Robinson said council hasn’t taken sides on the issue, but is making the democratic decision. He pointed out that that more than 100 of the 300 residents on the public water system responded to the township’s survey on the matter and the majority of those wanted fluoride removed. He also spoke of the opportunity during the 2018 municipal election to put the question on the ballot: a process somewhat flawed, he said, with all voters able to make a decision for the 300 residents impacted by any decision.
“I’m confident in my mind this is the right way to deal with this very difficult and complicated issue,” Robinson said before calling the third and final vote on the bylaw to remove fluoride.
Friday afternoon a handful of members of Parry Sounders for Progressive Water Management met outside the Tony Agnello Water Treatment Plant to celebrate.
“We’re obviously very, very pleased with the outcome and very thankful for the support from our local pharmacists, doctors and biologists as well as the huge majority of the people in Parry Sound and McDougall,” said group member Joe Moloney Monday morning. “We’re also very thankful for the support of Doctor Hardy Limeback. It was wonderful to see so many people who were engaged and we realize that it’s coming up at the next election and we’ll ensure there will be a lively debate at that time and we look forward to it. It’s one less unnecessary chemical in the water and the amount of money that the town doesn’t have to spend.”