After years of debate it appears Sarnia-Lambton’s water board is poised to keep fluoride in local drinking water.
An Observer poll of member municipalities of the Lambton Area Water Supply System (LAWSS) shows that a resolution to keep fluoride would pass if it is put to the board at its Feb. 26 meeting. The board has a weighted vote system, which gives the two largest users, the city of Sarnia and St. Clair Township, more votes than other members.
Sarnia has five votes, St. Clair has two, while Lambton Shores, Warwick, Point Edward and Plympton-Wyoming have one vote each.
Sarnia city council voted in favour of keeping fluoride in the system last Monday. With their five votes of a possible 11 at the water board, only one other municipality needs to vote with them to keep the controversial additive around. Last Wednesday, Plympton-Wyoming voted to maintain the status quo, said Mayor Lonny Napper.
“I think it’s the right approach until (Lambton Medical Officer of Health) Dr. (Chris) Greensmith tells me otherwise,” he said. “You surround yourself with people and that’s what they get paid for, to make these decisions and advise you.”
Warwick Township Mayor Todd Case said the council there voted about six months ago to ask LAWSS to stop adding fluoride.
“It was unanimous to take it out,” he said.
“At the time, with the information we had, our council felt it would probably be better to take it out. You could always put it back in if somebody decided to bring forth some new information where it was more positive than negative.”
Point Edward Mayor Dick Kirkland said he plans to take the issue to village council Feb. 16 and ask for a motion on its position.
“I’m not in favour of it being in the water,” Kirkland said. “I worked with it and I just can’t see putting it in the water.”
But, Kirkland added, “Whatever the council does, I most certainly will support their wishes.”
Lambton Shores council also voted some time ago to ask the water board to stop adding fluoride, said Mayor Gord Minielly.
He said a council member there who has worked in the water industry for years said, “Medicating the masses by putting it in water is against all logic.”
Minielly said the additive, which is said to strengthen teeth, should be removed and there are few to statistics back up the health claims.
“Everybody has toothpaste these days, everybody sees the dentist on a regular basis. They do a lot of the painting of fluoride. There’s no need to put it in your water.”
Minielly added, “I don’t think it’s doing us any good and it’s probably doing us some harm.”
St. Clair Township Mayor Steve Arnold said his council voted a year ago in favour of removing fluoride. He said provincial and federal legislation is always changing in regards to the additive and that means application has been all over the place.
“We’ve had very inconsistent levels in the system over the years,” he said. “And why would we want to injest more chemicals?”
But water board chairperson Terry Burrell said even with a perceived majority in favour of fluoride, there’s no guarantee that’s how the vote will go down. Burrell asked members if they’re ready to vote on the issue at the Feb. 26 meeting.
“I don’t want to preempt what the LAWSS board may do,” Burrell said. “We don’t really know until the vote actually comes.”
The local debate heated up in July 2008 when a panel of experts convened by Health Canada recommended new optimal concentrations of fluoride in drinking water.
The study suggested fluoride levels are ingested from a variety of sources by children and infants, and it should be lowered in drinking water and be monitored.
The report’s authors want Health Canada to adopt a level of 0.7 milligrams per litre as the optimal target in drinking water. The maximum acceptable concentration is currently 1.5 mg/L. The water board was already well within the levels suggested by Health Canada at the time.
Burrell said the board is eager to put the issue to rest. However, he doesn’t think the fluoride controversy is going away anytime soon.
“As I recall (the board) voted on it last term,” he said. “We’re voting on it this term. So it will probably come back next term.”