Before voting on the motion last night to end a 40 year practice of fluoridating the Tottenham water supply, which passed 7-3, New Tecumseth councillors approved holding a plebiscite during the next municipal election (October 2014), which will ask voters in Alliston, Beeton, and Tottenham whether they want fluoride added to the town-wide urban supply.
The notion was birthed by Ward 7 councillor Bruce Haire who argued that because “we’re one town” there should be a uniform standard – although Tottenham is on a separate ground water supply, while Alliston and Beeton receive potable water via the Georgian Bay pipeline treated and distributed from Collingwood.
It’s a surprising development that hadn’t played into previous debates which last week lasted about two hours and included representatives from the Simcoe Muskoka Public Health Unit arguing to keep fluoride treatment in Tottenham water. On the polar opposite side, Ward 8 councillor Jim Stone, calling it a “poison.”
Last night, the debate was less about the pros and cons of fluoride and more about putting the question on the ballot including for the first time Alliston, and Beeton. At one point, Ward 1 councillor Bob Marrs put a motion on the floor that sought to have an immediate plebiscite for Tottenham residents, but that didn’t get to a council vote. It then evolved into the town-wide question – it would exclude Ward 4, Ward 5, and Ward 7.
When asked about the fluoridation process and set-up if a vote to expand fluoride was approved, Public Works Director Chad Horan, said for Tottenham “it’s essentially pull the plug, and plug it back in.”
However, it’s not that simple for Alliston and Beeton. Mr. Horan estimated the equipment would cost over $130,000, would require more staff and training because fluoride is a controlled substance and must be dosed within approved guidelines. Additionally, because Alliston and Beeton water is treated with sodium hypochloride, the fluoride would require its own separate storage and containment because “they don’t mix. They need to be separated.” So the Town would have to build a separate storage shed.
In the meantime, the end of fluoridation in Tottenham will begin with an application to the Ministry of Environment to amend the Certificate of Approval attached to the system’s operation. Once cleared, (a formality) it would take four to five days for the system to flush fluoride from water supply. Councillors agreed to use whatever savings are achieved and donate to the Public Health Unit for use in dental health programs aimed at Tottenham elementary school students.