PORT ANGELES — The second day of city water fluoridation hearings brought heated exchanges as debate continued toward 11 p.m. Thursday.
Breaking from planned 10 p.m. adjournment, both sides completed their three-hour presentations about 9:40 p.m.
Following a 30-minute break to prepare documents, City Council questions and closing arguments were expected to run until at least 11 p.m.
Mayor Richard Headrick said the City Council will convene again — possibly Monday — to deliberate on the arguments presented for and against fluoridation, either in the council chambers or in its caucus room.
The meeting time was yet to be determined at PDN press time on Thursday night.
In the meantime, council members can study the documents presented during Wednesday’s and Thursday’s hearing on their own, Headrick said.
But, just as with a courtroom jury, they can’t discuss the case among themselves, with family members or the public, Headrick said.
The two-day hearing is an appeal of a March Community Development Department ruling that said fluoridation of the city’s water supply poses no significant environmental threat.
The council in February 2003 voted 6-1 to fluoridate the city’s water as a tooth-decay prevention measure.
A smaller crowd than the audience on Wednesday night listened Thursday as environmental attorney Gerald Steel, representing fluoridation opponents, repeatedly questioned the city’s witnesses about technical aspects of the proposed fluoridation project as well as its potential impacts.
Questions regarding how much fluorosilicic acid — the chosen fluoridation method — would be used, how many children in Port Angeles already receive sufficient fluoride, acceptable levels of impurities in the fluorosilicic acid, and the projected levels of dental fluorosis and their potential impact were repeatedly rebuffed by the city witnesses.
They responded that the issue was not within their area of expertise or was not addressed in the studies cited.
An exasperated Steel repeatedly asked the city’s witnesses who he should question, leading the city’s attorney, Craig Knutson, to reply that it was Steel’s obligation to decide who to question.
Community Development Director Brad Collins said he resented Steel referring to the city’s fluoridation proposal as “his proposal.”
He only prepared the State Environmental Policy Act analysis as an objective member of the city’s staff, Collins said.
Steel also tussled with the city’s witnesses over whether cosmetic effects would be considered “adverse” as well as the dictionary definition of the word.
Knutson asked Headrick, who was presiding over the hearing as mayor, more than once to allow city witnesses to finish their responses to Steel’s questions without interruption.
Headrick also admonished Steel to ask relevant questions of the appropriate witnesses.
“I realize your having fun here, but you have to ask about answers they have,” he said.